From the Ashes

When I went to bed on Sunday 6th August I was full of good intention for the next day. An update on the Little Viking Horse website was long over due, and I wanted to commit some serious time over the next week to working on my first children’s book, a fictional account of the early life of Little Viking Horse. A sort of modern day Black Beauty, with humour, Icelandic horses and a touch of National Velvet. Instead I was woken just after 1am by an explosion. Still half asleep I scrambled out of bed and poked my head through the bedroom curtains. My Land Rover was in flames. Not just a small fire, there were huge flames leaping eight or ten feet into the air, certainly higher than the height of my horse trailer that was parked right next to it. As I stared in disbelief there was another explosion. I phoned 999 for the fire service, and then could only watch as first my Landy, and then my trailer were destroyed.

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The view that greeted me from my bedroom window at 1am

The horses had taken themselves to the other side of the field, but I could hear one of them, probably Fleygur, making anxious nickers. I spoke to them and they settled.

My Land Rover defender had belonged to my husband, who died very suddenly last year. Since I lost my soulmate Roger, I have focussed on being positive, making my Plan B as good as I can, and the horses are part of that journey, one that have shared periodically on this blog, and on Little Viking Horse’s Facebook Page.  Over this year I have worked hard to overcome my anxiety about towing the horses on my own, and had just got this cracked.

I sobbed as I watched my Landy and trailer burn, along with many personal possessions that held sentimental value for me. It disturbed me the the fire was arson, probably a failed attempt at trying to steal the Landy. Someone had removed the doors and seats and set fire to it, presumably to cover their tracks. Such a waste of an iconic vehicle. I say that not because I was sentimental about it, but because, despite their popularity Land Rover Defenders are no longer in production.

 

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The Iconic Land Rover Defender, almost nothing was left after the arson attack

Selfish, thoughtless destruction, deliberate. Without a thought for others. What if it had been closer to the house? What if…..what if…… But it was not. Whilst it was distressing to watch, and some of what I have lost can not be replaced, I nevertheless was determined not to be defeated by this. ‘It was just a car’ I told myself. No-one was hurt, the horses are safe, and still my Plan B is a good one. I am fortunate compared to many, and after posting about the fire on Facebook I was heartened by the kindness of others yet again. People I did not know sent me good wishes and encouragement. I even had offers of horse equipment, CCTV, a gift voucher to ‘treat myself,’ and a complete stranger offered to transport my horses anywhere I needed to go whilst I got myself sorted. I appreciated all of the support I was offered, whether I needed it or not, the kindness of people shone through.

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Svipur kept going back to inspect the trailer

So I got to work replacing what I could, with firm plans to attend the remaining summer events with the horses.

My confidence in many areas took a knock when I was suddenly without Roger. Along with over coming my fear of towing this year, I have worked on overcoming my anxiety about riding, and I am finally making some good progress. Now when I arrive home from a ride, my overriding feeling is not one of ‘phew I made it”, but one of satisfaction, or even sorrow that I am back so soon. It’s a good feeling, and being able to ride and and enjoy Roger’s feisty Fleygur (aka LVH) is a real joy.

 

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Enjoying a ride on Roger’s Feisty Fleygur

I just hope I can continue this when I take Svipur (aka Blondie on the Facebook page) to the final Show of the season in September. I have been pleased with our progress this year, and we even managed to win a second place rosette in a Four Gait* class at the Icelandic Horse Festival and British Champions in June. Not bad for a horse that couldn’t trot.

*Icelandic horses are naturally gaited. In addition to walk, trot and canter, they can tolt, and some can perform a gait called flying pace. These five gaited horses can sometimes struggle to establish trot. The Four Gait class requires you to show walk, trot, tolt and canter.

 

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Svipur’s trot is work in progress

So my intentions of last week, to share with you more details of how Svipur and are working on improving his trot, and of how I have worked on my anxiety, were overtaken by events and will have to wait for a future post. The fire and the aftermath shocked me, and writing my book was stalled as well, while I sorted the mess. But now I am ready to begin again.

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The 2017 Icelandic Horse World Championships – what’s it all about?

An Icelandic Horse fan from GB attending the World Championships, has sent this explaination of the classes, and the names of the riders taking part. A small group of dedicated fans are there to cheer on Team GB. More information can be found on the Icelandic Horse Society website. 

The Icelandic World Championships 2017 are currently being held in Oirschot, Netherlands and we, Great Britain, have sent a team over!As of 2016 there were 21 countries registered with FEIF (the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations ) with Iceland having 97,995 Icelandic horses, Germany have 50,060, Denmark have 38,944 and in comparison, Great Britain have 984 horses, so to send a team to compete was a huge achievement!

Only one horse per rider is allowed in the World Championships sport competitions.

A national sport team at World Championships for Icelandic Horses can comprise of up to 7 rider/horse combinations and a reserve

There are a number of tests that are included in the World Championships with breeding assessments as well as Sport. I have given an explanation below of what each sport test is about along with the names of the GB team competing in each test.

 FOUR GAIT V1

This test is performed on the oval track. The riders compete individually. The test can be ridden on either rein. The rider has four and a half rounds to show the following gaits in any order:

• slow tempo tölt

• slow to medium speed trot

• medium walk

• slow to medium speed canter

• Fast tempo tölt

Each gait may be shown only once, walk for a half round and the other gaits for one round.

Marks: The five judges use a scale of marks per section from 0 to 10, with half points. The highest and lowest mark are disregarded. The final score calculated is the arithmetic mean of the three marks.

Team GB riders in this were:

Freija Glansdorp – Ljóri frá Efri-Rauðalæk

Sandy Carson [YR] – Svava fra Bakkeholm

James Boás Faulkner – Flans frá Víðivöllum fremri
 F1 FIVE GAIT

This test is performed on the oval track. The riders compete individually. The test can be ridden on either rein. The rider has four and a half rounds to show the following gaits in any order:

• Slow to medium speed tölt

• Slow to medium speed trot

• Medium walk

• Slow to medium speed canter

• Racing pace

Each gait may be shown only once, walk for a half round and the other gaits for one round. The racing pace is shown on the long sides only. The marks for tölt and pace will be doubled.

Marks: The five judges use a scale of marks per section from 0 to 10, with half points. The points for tölt and racing pace count double. The highest and lowest mark are disregarded. The final score calculated is the arithmetic mean of the three marks.

Team GB rider in this was:

Mike Adams – Kafteinn frá Kommu
T1 TOLT TEST

This test is performed on the oval track. Combinations entering this class are excluded from other tölt tests. The riders compete individually.

Sections

Begin at the middle of the short side and ride one round in slow tölt on either rein. Return to walk at the middle of the short side and change rein

From the middle of the short side ride one round in slow tölt, lengthen stride distinctly on the long sides

From the middle of the short side ride one round in fast tölt

Marks: The five judges use a scale of marks per section from 0 to 10, with half points. The highest and lowest mark are disregarded. The final score calculated is the arithmetic mean of the three marks.

Team GB riders in this were:

Mike Adams – Kafteinn frá Kommu

Jemimah Adams – Noi från Brösarpsgården

James Boás Faulkner – Flans frá Víðivöllum fremri
PP1 – PACE TEST

The pace test combines style, skill and speed. All combinations have two runs to show their best.

Start

As soon as the starting flag is raised, the horse moves off at walk, trot or tölt. Between the starting line and the 25 meter mark, strike off in canter from any gait. Between the 25 meter mark and the 50 meter mark change into racing pace. On the 50 meter mark time keeping starts at a visual signal. After the 150 meter mark and before the end marker at 200 meter, the horse has to have returned to tölt, trot or walk. For high marks the horse shall have returned to walk. The average of the marks of two runs decides the placing. In case of equal marks the marks given by the judges will decide the winner. In case the marks for the first place are equal a tie break has to be performed.

Judging

Six judges are required; they score openly from 0-10 with half points: the first judge judges the strike off at canter and the changeover into pace; the second judge judges the pace between the 50 meter and 100 meter mark; the third judge judges the pace between the 100 meter and 150 meter mark; the fourth judge judges the downward transition between the 150 meter marker and the end of the track at 200 meter.

The starter indicates with a red flag if the horse is not in pace at the 50 meter mark; At the 150 meter mark a judge will show a red flag is the horse is not in pace when crossing the 150 meter line. The judges choose their places in order to get the best possible view over their respective areas. When the horse has passed the area concerned, judges one to four show their marks. If the horse falls out of pace during the timed section, the relevant judge(s) show(s) a red flag and no marks for time shall be given. A maximum of 40 points for style and a maximum of 20 points for time can be obtained according to the table of marks. The final sum is to be divided by 6.

No Time

If a horse gets the mark 0 from judge 2 or 3 and/or a red flag from the judge at the starting line or the judge at the finishing line, there will be given no scores for the time. Combinations receiving “0” from three judges in the first run of PP1 are now allowed a second run.

GB riders in this were:

Mike Adams – Kafteinn frá Kommu

Aidan Carson [YR] – Óðinn from Inchree – Youth Rider 

 

T2 – TOLT TEST

This test is performed on the oval track. Riders compete individually. The rider has three rounds at his disposal to show the following gaits in the following order:

• Any speed tölt

• Slow, steady and calm speed tölt. Return to walk and change rein

• Slow to medium speed tölt, holding both reins in one hand clearly showing no rein contact with the horse’s mouth

Each section may be shown only once, for one round. The marks for section 3 will be doubled. Marks: The five judges use a scale of marks per section from 0 to 10, with half points. The points for the free rein count double. The highest and lowest mark are disregarded. The final score calculated is the arithmetic mean of the three marks.

GB riders in this were:

Sandy Carson [YR] – Svava fra Bakkeholm – Youth Rider

Ann Savage – Lipurtá frá Hóli II

Freija Glansdorp – Ljóri frá Efri-Rauðalæk

 

P1 – PACE RACE- 250 meter

The pacerace over 250 meter is ridden on the pacetrack. This P1 is a pure speed test in which the combinations race against each other after a start out of the start box.

Before the first run, lots are drawn in order to set the starting order. In the second to the fourth run, those riders start together who’s finishing times in the previous heat were nearest to one another. This means that the first starting group will be composed of the up to then slowest horses, the second group of the second slowest etc. If equal starting groups cannot be formed, the slowest group always starts with less horses, if necessary individually. If several horses are not rated, allocation of the horses to the starting groups will be decided by drawing lots.

Once the startboxes open, the combinations ride to the 50-meter point in a gait of choise. From that point until the finish, the horse has to be in pace.

Four runs are held but never more than two per day.

GB riders in this were:

Charlotte Cook – Sæla frá Þóreyjarnúpi

 

Time and Feel – part two

When I wrote my last blog back in July 2016 I intended to follow it up shortly after with some more of my story with Fleygur through the summer, but somehow the months have slipped by. I have missed the writing, it is cathartic for me and I thought often about what I would write, but it never made in on to the page. It is now nearly ten months since Roger died and I know that time alone is not enough to heal the pain of the loss. I have been on a journey over those months, one that I never would have chosen but nevertheless one that has taught me so much about me, those around me, loss, grief and resilience. I have had to consciously acknowledge and work on my feelings as I process my loss and make sense of my life.

Throughout last year I determinedly continued with all of the things that Roger and I had planned with the horses. I attended a riding clinic in May where I rode Roger’s horse in what would have been his lesson; entered Svipur in The British Icelandic Horse Championships in June, where I won the Elementary Tölt trophy that Roger had won two years earlier; took Fleygur and Jandi on a summer holiday to the Gower in South Wales; attended the ‘Icelandic Horse Summer Camp’ in August; and finally the Autumn Show at Oakfield Farm where Jandi and I won the Fancy Dress Class!

I progressed from being picked up, emotionally and physically by my wonderful friends in May and June, through quiet calm support and towing tips from my Dad in July, to packing loading and towing four hours on my own in September. Life had to go on and I did it with all the determination I could muster.

Fleygur and I on holiday, Rhossili Bay, South Wales

In August a house with a small paddock came up for sale in our village, and long term I couldn’t stay where I was as it was a short term rent. ‘When I am ready’ I said, ‘that is the sort of place I need to be’. It was near to the field I lease from the Church and I would have the support of my friends in the village nearby and the community in which Roger and I made our home. Then I realised, this was not just the ‘sort of place’ it WAS the place. So in October I moved home as well.

I had been back at work since June in a demanding senior job with lots of change and I wondered quite where my strength came from. I waited for the moment I would crash and burn. I knew I must be exhuasted but somehow I kept going. In that time I thought a lot about resilliance, where does it come from, how do you nurture it? It seems to me that resilience is to be gained from rooting yourself in your values and beliefs, your purpose, why you are here and why you do what you do. But its not just about looking back, it is also about looking forward with optimism to the future, or if you can’t manage to be optimistic at least with determination to get where you want to be and achieve your dreams. I like to think of it as a tree, putting down strong roots and reaching up with new leaves on its branches. Of course accepting what is and what can not be changed is a pre-requisite for this and an extract from what is commonly known as the Serentity Pray sums this up well,

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My life with Roger is gone and I can not change what is, so I have to make the best of what I have. I am reminded often of a story told by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, whose husband died suddenly just over a year before Roger. She talks about a time she wanted her husband to be there for her and the children and was crying to a friend. He said, ‘Sheryl Option A is not available so we are going to kick the shit out of Option B’. And this is what I am trying to do, in the knowledge that my option B, as painful as it is without Roger to share it with, is a pretty good one and in that I am fortunate. I have my home, my health, my family and friends, and of course my horses.

What about those lovely horses?

So what about those lovely horses? How was the rest of the year with Fleygur? Those of you who follow the Facebook blog will know that I have been riding him, and that in general things went pretty well. I focussed a lot on keeping him calm and spent a lot of time walking him with just short sections of slow or medium tölt.  If he got too much I just got off and walked, the aim was to stay calm, him and me, it was not a battle of wills. We had a few little incidents, usually when riding in company where once something set him off he could be difficult to stop but I used the one rein stop where it was safe to do so and as my reactions and riding improved I learnt to sit deep and use my seat and body to ask for the stop. I also found someone in the village who was a good match for Fleygur, a calm, secure rider and this meant I could ride the other horses too. My bond with Fleygur grew strong, this feisty little horse, that I would have never chosen for myself, I think had begin to see me as his!

However as winter progressed work got busy and the weather got worse. Finding the time energy and motivation to ride got hard. I rode most weeks, but usually only once and although the I am sure the horses didn’t mind hanging about in the field, they really didn’t get the work they needed. More than once I thought that Roger would have been telling me I was mad to keep all four horses on my own. My confidence started to diminish, not just the riding but in my decisions about the horses care. The less I rode the more confidence I lost. Then a few weeks ago I fell off Jandi and was winded and badly cut my hand. I have continued riding but that knocked my confidence further and as Spring kicks in I know the horses will be full of beans, or rather Spring grass!

So what am I to do? Get help, that’s what.  Roger always said this to anyone who was having a horse issue, and it is good advice. I have booked into all the Icelandic horse clinics I can, put all the shows in my calendar and am arranging for some experienced friends to come and ride with me and help me get all horses out and ridden. We all have confidence issues from time to time and I will get this sorted – there’s that optimism and detminination again. I can’t let my feisty pony down now can I?

My Feisty Pony

In February I left my job, not because I had crashed and burned but because the time was right. I will still be working but in a more flexible way and I hope that this will give me time to explore my other passion of writing. I will have more time to blog about my journey with the horses, and who knows some Little Viking Horse stories or a book may appear too!

This last ten months have contained more significant and stressful life changes than I could have ever imaged but still, here I am, ‘kicking the shit out of option B’.

2015 Rider Rankings Announced

The Icelandic Horse Society of GB has announced the Rider Rankings for 2015 and through my amazing talents My Mate Roger is ranked first in the FIPO Elementary Four Gait. Maybe that will stop all the musing about retiring me from competition, it’s quite exhausting all this ‘will we, wont we take him to the shows’. Blondie helped the Woman achieve first place in the non-FIPO Elementary Tolt too, so he must be following my example.

The GB Ranking is a comparison of results of the Icelandic Horse Society of GB members at sport events. After every competition a new ranking list will be computed by taking the result of a rider in any discipline (FIPO (and/or World Ranking), non-FIPO or Gæðingakeppni) and is based upon the average of the best results with any horse in the respective discipline over a certain number of years. Riders have to go on competing to keep their position in the ranking list. The results used for the calculation per rider may be achieved at different events with different horses. At the end of each year, the highest ranking rider in each class is announced

Okay, I get it, the horses do all the work and the riders get the praise!

For more details on the GB Rider Rankings Click here

Apparently though I am going to the shows this year and My Mate Roger is already talking about getting me fit, I have a horrible feeling this is likely to mean more Boot Camps too.

003Fleygur Ranking 3Roger and Fleygur 2015 RankingCatherine and Svipur 2015 ET Ranking

Icelandic Horse World Championships 2015

In 2013 we visited the Icelandic Horse World Championships for the first time and vowed that we would be in Denmark in 2015 for the next one, and here we are! The trip was a little more dramatic that the one to Berlin in 2013. We drove through Holland and then Germany where unfortunately we were involved in a crash. We were not hurt and after a five hour delay the car was patched up and we continued to Denmark where I am glad to say there is less traffic, and much more sensible driving!

At the end of my blog post that year I mused about the need to continue to focus on the well being of the horses (link here: WCs 2013 Report) so this year it’s good to see the new Judges guidance being applied. This years WCs Magazine says

The prime judging criterion should be the harmony between the horse and rider. The rider must handle the horse with fairness, delicacy and respect; be it’s true leader rather than is dominator. At all times the rider must put the horse’s welfare at first hand and guard it’s health and safety. The horse should be able to fulfil it’s tasks with pleasure; be calm and supple, but also confident, attentive and keen.

For the competitors the new guidance will mean lower scores this year as they work to adapt to the new requirements and the ‘firewalls’ come into effect – barriers in the scoring for each element that can not be crossed and will guide the judges.

The elements are

Riding Skills and connection

Beat and Balance

Suppleness and Relaxation

Outline and movements

Correctness and precision of execution

Such great sentiments. I am looking forward to seeing a competition that is judged in this way.

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My Fun Fast Tölt

I have begun my training for the Show season, and this means lots of tölting. My Mate Roger is trying to work out why I tölt so fast when we are out on a rambles, but don’t offer him the same speed on the oval track in competition.

It’s easy really. My really fast tölt out on our rambles is so I can get home more quickly and get fed! Fast tölt on the oval track is a waste of energy as I just go round in circles (or ovals!).

Watch my super fast fun tölt here.

The Spring Show is here!

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This is me, at the Spring Show in Verwood, Dorset, England. On the eve of the Show the early arrivers rode out together. Today is the Spring Fling – including the fancy dress! The serious classes start tomorrow. A full report of how awesome I am will be posted on my return.