Wilma’s turn to shine

As some of my regular readers will know I also own Wilma, who is Wanda’s niece. A Wb x Cob x TB skewbald filly. She was bred by Wanda’s former owner Tessa Frost, based just outside Cambridge. Wilma’s sire is Wanda’s full brother and her dam is a former TB racehorse. I purchased Wilma at the beginning of December 2013 and she wintered with Tessa, running with the other weanlings, arriving to our yard in April.

I decided to buy a youngster as I wanted a second project to run alongside Wanda, hadn’t the funds to buy an older horse and also knew a little about Wilma’s blood lines so felt slightly more comfortable with the idea. Wilma was also 3 weeks older than my youngest son and for some madcap reason I thought buying her was a nice way to celebrate his birthday. 

What I lacked was any experience handling young horses so was very much prepared for a sharp learning curve. In hindsight it wasn’t until Wilma arrived that I realised how little I knew. After feeling swamped in the do’s and don’ts left by Tessa I did feel rather like I may have brought myself a lot of worry. We turned Wilma out to run with the 2 kid’s ponies and it was clear that they were going to make sure she was low down on the pecking order. I guess it’s just natural behaviour and decided to leave them be. True to horse form they were settled within half an hour, with dear Wilma being very much ignored and looking a little lonely. Within a few days she was best buds with Hickory the pony and as I write this blog she is now leader of the ponies. Wilma is a very friendly yet sharp yearling. 

As part of my plan I decided to get as much ground work done with Wilma as I could. My thinking was that it was easier to manage and train a 10 month old foal than it was train a stronger and bolshier 2 year old. Within a few days Wilma had her first tie up, ate from a haynet and experienced the start of grooming. She also soon learnt that it wasn’t sensible to swing her head and neck into my face and that it was important to stand still when I asked, move to the side and then back up. Our paddocks have a lot of gates so she soon learnt simple move over and back commands. 

Feed wise I took guidance from Baileys www.baileyshorsefeeds.co.uk and my trainer Val Gingell. We don’t have a lot of grazing but with the wet weather the grass has kept coming. I’ve been very watchful of Wilma’s development, keeping her fed with Baileys Stud Ballancer and at first Stud Pencils and Alfa A. As the spring grass came she swapped to balancer and pony nuts. She is also fed oil. I think feeding was my main concern and I have been very aware of the problems that can arise if young stock are over or under fed. 

At first grooming tickled and Wilma really fidgeted so I persevered, kept brushing until all her tickle spots disappeared. When she arrived she couldn’t cope with belly and back leg brushing. Now she accepts it calmly and enjoys it. I also started with feet picking, finding out the hard way that a yearling can cow kick very sharply and how much it hurts when they catch your little finger! Her first visit to the farrier for trimming was tense, but now she stands like a pro. In the early days I could see that she learnt quickly but I was always a little timid, worried that I would teach her bad habits. At the time I had a lot of help from our groom Coco Chambers who was amazing at holding and working with Wilma on the times that I was tied up at work or with my children. 

My intention was to take Wilma to some in hand yearling classes but I always found they clashed with events which was frustrating. I then found out about British Breeding Futurity assessments that are supported by Baileys Horse Feeds. www.britishbreeding.org/home.aspx 

The Futurity is the fastest growing young horse evaluation programme in the UK. The assessments aim to identify British bred young potential sport horses and ponies destined for top level careers in dressage, eventing, showjumping or endurance, and may even find the Olympic champions of the future. 

Horses and ponies are entered for the Futurity discipline they are bred to perform in, with age groups for foals, yearlings, two and three year olds. Each horse is evaluated in hand and loose in an indoor school as well as undergoing a vet’s assessment. Breeders value the Futurity because it allows them to get their youngstock out in public, but in a low stress enclosed environment. 

I decided to enter Wilma, just to get an outing and guidance more than anything. As preparation Wilma needed to get used to thorough grooming, bathing, trimming, mane pulling and plaiting. She also needed to wear an in hand bridle, so essentially be bitted and comfortable wearing it to be trotted up and handled. I also had to ensure she would walk on trot on a 15-20m triangle and feel happy doing so. I had a month or so to work on these points and in this time I’d say her handling really matured and we developed a great bond. It was the start of her really getting tuned into me as a partner and guide and really felt quite magical. Unfortunately futurity at Keysoe wasn’t meant to be as Wilma went lame a few days before. She bruised her sole and it wouldn’t have been sensible to take her. Luckily I emailed the organiser Cat and she transferred our entry to Writtle College which kindly gave Wilma time to recover. 

As ever the 2 weeks leading up to the assessment was busy and Wilma had a few practices loading and standing on our lorry and being bathed. I had wanted to take her to the local agricultural college to loose school but funds and lack of available time put pay to this. Wilma also had her mane thinned and pulled in preparation. In haste I took her for her first lorry journey 2 days before the event. My plan had been to do this sooner so it was a major risk. Wilma was her usual laid back self and travelled brilliantly. Not a noise and totally relaxed all the way to the next village and back. At this point I became more confident that we would be able to cope with futurity and all that would be expected of team Black and White… 

To be continued!

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