Charlotte and Bobby - 2 Years Together
I first came to ESR in September 2020 having only ridden as a child. At first I was just looking for riding lessons, but after riding and volunteering with them for 6 months, my passion for horses was reignited and I bought Bobby in March 2021. As a brand new horse owner, I had a lot to learn very quickly and I couldn’t have done it without the support and guidance of the staff and volunteers at ESR. When they knew I was looking for a horse, they helped to put me through my BHS Horse Health and Riding Out Safely awards so that I had a basic understanding of how to care for a horse. They then spent many hours looking through adverts with me until I found something suitable in my budget.
Through volunteering I learnt about grooming and horse care, handling horses of different temperaments, assisted with things like clipping and applying poultices and soaked up as much knowledge as I could. I also learned that there was a different way to connect with horses and that riding was only a small part of what they could offer - which came in very handy later.
My budget wasn’t huge so I really had the choice to buy something young and green or something approaching retirement. My longing for a horse didn’t come from a longing to ride but from wanting a life long companion to learn and grow with so I bought Bobby at 4 years old. He was lightly backed to ride but green, which I thought I could handle easily having volunteered at the yard for 6 months and worked with a variety of different horses. I wasn’t quite prepared for how different things are when it’s your own horse.
It was immediately obvious that Bobby was a gentle soul but he had ridden issues related to mounting and being in open spaces and non-ridden issues in that he didn’t know how to connect with humans. He had been taught to be compliant but not to work in partnership and was head shy and difficult to catch in the field. Under the guidance of the staff at ESR I spent the first couple of weeks grooming him, talking to him, taking him out for walks in hand and bringing him lots of different foods to try (he’d never even had a carrot before), learning how to care for his mallanders and introducing him to lots of new things and people.
Meanwhile, I had put him on schooling livery so the staff worked with him on his ridden work while also giving him the care, attention and space he needed out of the saddle to be able to grow.
As a novice rider, it quickly became obvious through a number of incidents that I was not going to be able to give him what he needed in the saddle by myself. The first half dozen times I came off him I got straight back on but it was slowly breaking me and after a particularly nasty accident I decided I didn’t want to ride a horse again and questioned whether I should even be responsible for one. I felt like Bobby was too much for me, I was failing him, I’d been too full of myself thinking I could look after a horse and he’d be better off with someone else. I told the staff how I was feeling and they were so sympathetic and supportive. They offered me Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) which I did with Bobby to work through my feelings of inadequacy, lessons in ground work so that I could give him a good foundation on the ground for ridden work, leant me materials on trick training and booked me into a Liberty Training clinic.
I came to realise that my passion for horses didn’t lie in the saddle but in spending time with my best friend regardless of what we were doing together. He continued with his schooling livery, while I continued to work with him on the ground. The trust and bond we built through doing these things is indescribable and set us up so well for a lifetime together.
I eventually got back in the saddle 12 weeks later and decided to go all the way back to basics to help with my confidence. I started with lessons in walk on a lead rein and slowly built things up until I was riding confidently on my own. Bobby’s confidence increased at the same time and after a year he was one of the most reliable horses on the yard.
Bobby was given a huge range of opportunities, the diversity of which would be difficult to find anywhere else. He was taken to clinics, went on beach rides, took part in EFL sessions, gave beginners and nervous returners positive experiences in the saddle, went on hacks (and has now become a reliable and unflappable ride leader), went to cross country and many other things.
When Bobby came to me shod, I had already begun to learn the benefit of barefoot hooves to horses through the standard practice of the yard so taking them off was my first order of business. I found the science behind it fascinating and decided to educate myself on how to create and maintain healthy hooves through diet, trimming and care. I joined a number of Facebook groups where I see people post photos of their horses' hoof problems and read and absorb all of the answers and advice offered by professionals. This has allowed me to be able to recognise a healthy and unhealthy hoof and have a basic understanding of adjustments that need to be made.
As an owner I had the opportunity to engage with professional saddle and bridle fitters to make sure he was comfortable, had access to a wide range of learning resources including going on an Equine Touch course, opportunities to attend clinics, and most importantly, experienced people around me to offer support and advice. As a new owner I asked 1000 “stupid” questions but you don’t know what you don’t know. Things like “My horse has a cut, is it bad enough to need a vet?”, “My horse is itching, how can I make it stop” and “I’m getting lots of adverts for things I must get for my horse, which are true and which are just advertising?”.
In January of 2023, one of the staff noticed early signs of Chronic Progressive Lymphedema (CPL) appearing on Bobby’s legs. It was something we had a basic understanding of on the yard having cared for a Clydesdale with the condition. Once again I went into research mode and learned everything I could. It’s a condition which is much more common that people think but is not widely understood even by vets. By once again immersing myself in internet learning, I was able to find the experts in the condition and begin to follow their recommended protocols - not just for Bobby but share the information with the yard so that they could treat the other horses with it more effectively.
What ESR has done for us is teach me just how small a part riding plays in owning a horse and how much more we can both get from our relationship if we look beyond the ridden work. After 2.5 years I’m now at the stage where I can have Bobby closer to home and take more responsibility for his care, but I’ll never forget and never be able to repay what ESR has given to us. It’s a very special place to a lot of people and will always hold a spot in our hearts.