Telling your storiesfrom the stables to the fields

05 June,2018

Horse. Inspiration to Art – Part 1 by Urban Fraggle Art

In this three part series, we meet Joanne from Urban Fraggle Art who shares her story about her ever challenging mare, Nancy, Aka NantesseZ. Read about how she overcame these challenges and how they keep rearing their ugly head.

People often say to me, you only do horses! Do something else!

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve done cats, a tiger, peacocks, and buildings. But it is true that the body of my work is horses. As a child I was always sketching horses, my stepdad bought me a book on how to draw horses, and when I doodle, it’s usually a horse! My mind just takes me there. I am sure there is a psychological explanation that Carl Jung would pick up on, coming from my subconscious mind, but, it’s clear I like horses and art as a combination.

Here is my story with that grey mare who was sent to me to teach me, that horses are not a right, they are a privilege. 

The Warmblood I didn’t even like...

My mare, a stunning little 15.3h Thoroughbred x Section D had been diagnosed lame. For the first time in the years I had had her she threw me off with 3 mahoossive bucks. She was a flighty mare, but she had never thrown me, so I knew there was something wrong. I was on a competition yard, working there after I had just moved to Essex with some guy I had met online. I competed as a child, showjumping, but I had gotten older, and a 13 year break from horses, competing couldn’t have been further from my mind!

However, being on a competition yard opened my eyes to possibilities of grandeur. Dressage was the name of the game, and I fancied myself as the graceful rider over the plucky showjumper! So, Bronte and I got to work.. but it was very short lived. My journey to understanding horses, their bio-mechanics and nature was just about to begin, although I didn’t know it just yet!

Gutted that the inspiration I had felt had come to a whopping end, I started the hunt for a new one.. a warmblood.. yeah.. a warmblood. Because after all, they made the best competition horses! I was surrounded by these impressive big beautiful horses that I wanted to be part of it. I knew I wanted a dun, red and white or a grey. My heart had always been with greys. As a child, the greys always stood out for me in the showjumping ring on TV.

In for a shock.. .

The yard I was on always sent potential clients to a dealer, who usually bought young horses from abroad. I had given my desired colour, height and sex (mares, always loved mares, although we know geldings are usually easier!)and of course budget. She had a Red & White come in who apparently had stunning markings, but, by the time we had organised a viewing, she had been sold. 

I was then told about a grey, 4 years old, mare, 16.1hh out of a the Grade A showjumper Nelson Z and within my budget.

Also, a big black gelding. At 17.1hh I decided was much too big for me (I had seen quite a few in the meantime and actually put a deposit on a lovely black mare who seemed as safe as houses, but she failed the vetting). 

So, I went to view this gawky, strawberry roan with a big straight head and a short neck! I didn’t like her, I thought she was ugly! (bearing in mind Bronte was a pretty little mare, and I was used to pretty) 


Anyway, my ego got the better of me, and because she was out of Nelson Z, and the girl I was viewing her with said if I didn’t want her then she would buy her, I decided to try her. The first viewing I wasn’t able to ride her as she had sores on her mouth from the bit and a saddle sore.. but I watched her move.. and watched her try and jump out of the arena (that’s daddies girl!), and decided she had potential.

My second viewing I liked the look of her a little bit more. And it was time to get on her. The dealer rode her (tight, but my limited experience I didn’t question back then). I got on her.. her trot was sticky and uncomfortable, she reared.. more than once. But, I ‘pushed’ her through it (because that is what you are meant to do, right?). Anyway, I got a canter out of her and my word, it was like riding a rocking horse! It was so uphill and smooth and comfortable. I was sold!

I started the training process, lunging. I’ve never really been a fan of gadgets, but it was recommended to me to put side reins on her to keep her head long and low. So I did, and to drive her forwards. So I did. She seemed lazy and switched off, vacant in fact. Not the idea of the competition horse I had in mind! I was disheartened. 

I can’t remember why I decided to move from the yard I was on, but I found a quiet little private place and moved Bronte & Nancy. This was where all my problems began (not that they weren’t already there, I just hadn’t ridden her yet). 

The first day I tacked her up, and tentatively got on her, and walked her round with her head in the air, then asked for trot, with her head in the air, was the first experience of being bolted with and subsequently thrown! Hmm.. this was not good!! Just a one off? Nope. It was happening every single time, and my confidence was starting to be knocked!

The Hunt for an Experienced Trainer

The hunt was on for an experienced instructor. A stage 4 eventer was recommended. She worked with her in quite tight side reins (something I was not happy about, but what did I know). .and she bolted (on the lunge).. she worked with her a couple of times and advised me to sell her as she was too dangerous. I certainly wasn’t giving up that easy! Call me stubborn, stupid or both. But this mare had cost me quite a bit of money, and, I don’t have the mindset of passing on troubled or problem horses. Looking in all the horsey magazines I found an instructor I really liked the look of, and we got on really well. She gasped at how beautiful Nancy was and how mature she looked for a 4 year old, and commented on how horses this young, but who look older, are often worked too hard too young. I liked her already.

I moved yards (again!)

Sticking with the same instructor I continued to ‘work through’ our problems.. but nothing got any better. I pushed and pushed Nancy as I had these expectations of her. And our relationship was not improving. 

Why would it? All this horse had experienced from people was brute force, side reins, draw reins, bits that cut and saddles that mark! I didn’t enjoy her. Every session was a fight!

I was time and time again told to sell her.

It was time to find another way because the way I was working with her just wasn’t working for us… 

Part 2 explores ‘alternative’ training methods…

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Post History

Haynet Podcast

Do You Swing Both Ways?

Chatting A Bit with Olive & Berry

When You Have To Say Goodbye

Stand Out In Business

My Favourite Equestrian TV Series: Flambards

Changing The Rein