Eyes Up

And so Springs Event draws ever nearer and, to my relief, my nerves are starting to wobble. The Mutterer was right – you have to be nervous, you have to have that edge. Somehow I just have to find the balancing act between paralysing fear and helpful adrenalin.

Either way, Springs’ course map went out today and I nearly fainted; the drop was bad enough (I have hated drops since I knew what they were) and then there has to be a ditch in the equation as well. For what it’s worth, Arwen and I have never jumped a ditch in our lives. My strategy will be to kick on and hold tight and trust that gutsy little grey mare. Flagged water is also a first for us, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be fine. She likes the Springs water.

The other horses, however, have been keeping my mind off it thoroughly. Magic and Arwen both put in solid lessons with the Mutterer on Wednesday, despite my minor meltdown (confidence, people: it helps. Also patient trainers). The Storm Horse was his usual superb self; I also got to ride his son, whom I think we shall call the Thundercloud Horse because he’s about the right colour. Hopefully, if I get him ready in time, he shall go to the Spring Show with his daddy and Arwen Jnr. The Mutterer and I also had a couple of awesome outrides on some of the baby horses. Sometimes I think we must be totally insane to take out a pair of half-backed babies and teach them to canter in the hay fields, but it really is the most ridiculous fun even if they lose the plot every now and then. I picked a goofy Nooitgedachter/warmblood colt who turned out to have a mild inertia problem: once he’s stopped he doesn’t really get going, but once he’s going he doesn’t really get stopped. At least he plopped along in a straight line when I eventually got him to canter, while the Mutterer and his colt occasionally vanished into the trees amid crashes and mild profanity.

Thursday I took it easy; I knew I should probably ride at least Arwie, but I also knew that if I didn’t take some time off, I’d be stone dead by Sunday. I just rode the German Giraffe, who was superb, despite bucking spectacularly when I free lunged her first. (She has only ever bucked with me once, but she removed me effortlessly with that one buck).

Today was madness, but wonderful madness; I rode nine horses and they were all at least relatively good ranging to awesome. Arwen and I did some fast work and bounced up and down some banks in preparation for the dreaded drop. She was amazing – settled and sensible, but ever eager, alert, and lively. She reminded me that drops aren’t scary at all when her saddle fits, stupid little human. I was tremendously proud of her.

Vastrap had another jumping session, which he rocked; I kept the jumps little, but I think I can start putting them up again as we both seem to have recovered at least some of our courage. Trappies, actually, has all his courage – it’s me that’s the problem, as usual. The little grey pony refrained from bucking me off, which was nice. (He was actually extremely well behaved; I think as he is now he’d be okay on a lead rein with his little kid, it’s just cantering that’s the trouble. He’ll have his wolf teeth out on Tuesday and then we can hopefully sort that out).

It was windy and noisy, and I need a dress rehearsal for the next training show, so I dressed Magic up in his adorable earmuffs for his flatwork. It went fairly well; the dude still likes to throw his head around when he’s upset, but I think I might have cracked the code there. Yanking on him to discipline him only makes it worse, and releasing the pressure mid-tantrum only causes it to happen more frequently, so today I decided to just sit there and lock my elbows. This caused my hands to sit dead still; not pulling on him, but firmly resisting his tantrum. The moment he put his head down again the reins would instantly relax due to my hand position and I’d soften my elbows again and give him a soft contact. The light bulb went on faster and faster each time this happened, so I’ll be sticking to this technique for a while.

The afternoon sessions were hacking on Her Majesty, who was fiery and wonderful and happy; flatwork with the Wonderful Flipping Filly, who has finally stopped flipping over and now only shakes her head on occasion; hacking on dear daft Vicky, who was a brick (and I can’t think of a nickname for her that suits her better than her actual stable name); schooling the Ditcher (the mare that infamously bucked me off and shot off down the main road during a hack) who was superb; and schooling the Tank, who has finally figured out that in order to make a canter circle her legs should go in the same direction as her head. They’d all made progress (apart from Skye, who doesn’t have to), so what more can I ask for?

I also finally got the pictures of our April 6th training show and they are amazing. Arwen looks superb in them, she really does. I also don’t look like a drunken ape, which is always nice. In fact, I like my jumping position better in these photos than I ever have before. At least now I’ve gotten the idea of giving with my hands without leaping up the neck, eh?

Arwen is beautiful

Arwen4ways1

Counting down to Springs. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done! Glory and honour and praise and power to our beloved King!

Bring It, Springs!

With our next horse trial on the horizon, I’m feeling confident, in a way. I say “in a way” because I feel really confident, but before our previous successes I have been dead nervous, so I feel nervous because I’m not feeling nervous, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I have given up on trying to understand my own psychology.

Arwen, however, has given me not a scrap of reason to doubt her. There will be no stressage at this event (hooray!) so we don’t have to worry about the sandbox. We’ve been putting in brisk workouts around the neighbour’s fields; following her clip Arwen magically appears twenty times fitter and has been burning up the “track”. She comes out to work every day with bucketfuls of enthusiasm and energy; her workouts seem to steady her more than tire her out and after 45 minutes mostly spent hand-galloping, she’ll have covered at least 6km and still have plenty left in the tank.

Showjumping has also been going very well. At the beginning of April we blundered off to a training show (which never even made it into the blog), and blasted around the 60cm, 70cm and 80cm classes. 60cm was a speed trial, so I totally wrote it off knowing that I go around a showjumping course at the approximate speed of a continental drift, and we ended up coming third on top of a class of enormous thoroughbreds. We went double clear in the 70cm and had the last pole down in the 80cm, which I wasn’t upset about because I got her a terrible distance to it and she was exhausted anyways. This was pre-clip and it was a brutally hot day. So we know that she can jump an 80cm course without fuss.

At home we’ve been jumping a little course that I set up to challenge us. It starts with a vertical of around 1.00m, followed by a turn to a skinny about 65cm high (she takes the skinny in her stride, to my amazement), then a little bank up to an 85cm vertical, then a bank down and a turn to a 95cm parallel oxer. She had a few stops at the two bigger fences, but mostly this is rider error. 1.00m is reaching the end of the little mare’s scope and I can’t expect her to jump that sort of thing when I’m not doing my job. She saves my butt enough over the little jumps.

Much love for this fat beast
Much love for this fat beast

Cautiously confident over here; rest assured that walking the cross-country will probably dissolve me back into a suitable state of pressurised anxiety.

Magic has also been super. He managed to injure himself on Friday, another of his mysterious impossible idiotic injuries; some kind of an impact right above the hock on his inner left thigh, leaving a swelling and a graze. Dweeb. By Monday it was fine, though, so we went back to work. We jumped the same course as Arwen, except without the skinny and with everything down to about 60cm. He was his usual: honest as the day, excellent as long as I let go of his face. I think I should start singing “Let it Go” while I ride him. Unfortunately…

I’m also deeply puzzled as to Magic and the French link snaffle. Not because Magic fights the snaffle; that’s pretty normal. But for all the world Magic behaves as if the dear little copper-jointed French link is twenty times harder than his big nasty Kimberwick. He hides behind it, he overreacts to downward transitions in it, and he fights it every step in the canter, alternating violent head-throwing with coming up behind the bit. He’s even worse with the single joint and his teeth are up to date. Then with the Kimberwick he puts his little nose down and goes confidently into the contact. Lunatic. I know he hates the bit to touch his palate, so maybe he hates it to touch his tongue too and the Kimberwick’s port suits him. Either way, he detests dressage anyway, so for now the Kimberwick it is.

Take away this nasty evil snaffle, Mom
Take away this nasty evil snaffle, Mom

Further news is fairly limited, especially as it is too late for my brain to retrieve any of it. Vastrap jumped the same course as Magic like a superstar; one day when I have the courage I’ll have to do a power jump with him because I’ve seen him overjump 1.10m by miles – he’s got quite a pop in him. Baby Thun was much less stupid during his flatwork session yesterday than last time and even slid for me, on my poor footing no less. Exavior is being adorkable and growing like a weed. Skye continues to bully and babysit him, despite now standing almost a full hand shorter than him. The Mutterer’s chestnut mare has gone to her overjoyed new home. The little roan pony bucked me off rather painfully onto my left buttock, which now bears an impressive bruise; the impressive bruises are always somewhere that you can’t show off.

Except for the time that I faceplanted off Vastrap
Except for the time that I faceplanted off Vastrap

To bed with this exhausted equestrienne. Praise God for full days and good horses.

Glory to the King.

Extreme Makeover Fluff Edition

Thursday was the day; poor Arwen was starting to suffer under her typical Nooitie winter coat (i. e. strongly resembling that of the average yak). She sweats like a pig and feels the heat, too, so there were no two ways about it – that coat was going to have to come off.

Google images yak
Firn Hyde's yak
Firn Hyde’s yak

So she was scrubbed to within an inch of her life and then clipped. She was a hooligan, but I shall give her the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the poor guy I had holding her, who is one of the farm workers. He has been saddled with the duties of grooming my client horses because he is patient and not afraid of horses, but he will most definitely not be holding a horse for a clip again. (A bit too patient, I’m afraid). Once Arwie figured out that she could go merrily in circles without any consequences she did so, with the result that not only are her head and legs left unclipped as usual, but she also has an unflattering hairy patch on her stomach.

Either way, we accomplished what we needed to; I have a shiny pony that can work in comfort,

Shinyyyy
Shinyyyy! And bone dry post flatwork!

Arwie has a bright pink blankie,

Despite her best efforts she does occasionally lose her composure and look adorable
Despite her best efforts she does occasionally lose her composure and look adorable

and we both have a reminder as to Who we belong to and why we do what we do.

I think Lord Jesus was helping me clip because somehow I got it to actually look like a cross
I think Lord Jesus was helping me clip because somehow I got it to actually look like a cross

The shaven beastie, much as she detested her clip, is evidently much happier to be ridden. It can’t be nice to work out in the equivalent of a winter jacket. Her stamina has dramatically increased and her attitude towards the end of a session is markedly more perky. She was superb in her flatwork session on Friday, including one (semi-accidental) flying change while we were practicing canter leg-yields. Today she even carried the Mutterer up and down hills for two hours without breaking a sweat anywhere except under the saddle.

Magic put in a wonderful jumping session on Friday, too. I put the sticks up to about 80cm and he was still popping over without any fuss. I’m now faced with the next dilemma of Magic’s education: His confidence is fine now. It’s mine that’s holding us back. I’m still grabbing his mouth in panic at the base of the fences, and he’s still not deserving it, because he is quiet and reliable and knows his job. Poor old Magic, he doesn’t deserve me, but he does have me so I assume the King has a plan for us. Our session, though, actually went extremely well because I concentrated really hard on giving him my hands nice and quietly. Reciting Psalm 23 out loud helped a lot. It forced me to relax, prevented me from micromanaging, and gave Magic a calm, confident voice to listen to, which means a lot to him. When I stay out of his face, he is simply amazing. He carries me to the jump, takes off at a good distance right out of his stride, and glides effortlessly over.

Insert carrots here
Insert carrots here

After Magic, I rode dear old Vastrap. Last time we jumped, I faceplanted rather painfully into the first element of a combination, so we were both a bit shaken and I pushed the jumps all the way down to 40cm. I find it’s always better to play it safe and have a good experience or two before building back up and onwards. Anyway, I needn’t have worried, because Trappies was his usual saintly self and popped over everything very well. He did get a little panicky after a few jumps (I assume he remembers me shooting up his neck and eating the pole) but nothing major. Vastrap is good practice for Magic, because he doesn’t easily overreact and is generally less scary, but he still appreciates a nice quiet hand at all times. Arwen, either by personal preference or being trained by a newb like I was, prefers a quite strong contact, so she’s no help except for my courage.

Yesterday was Storm Horse day. I hadn’t seen him for over a week and I think I had forgotten how beautiful he is. I was so excited when I saw him looking over the fence at me that I totally forgot to greet his owner, just grabbed my saddle off the back of the Mutterer’s bakkie and vanished. Storm Horse insisted on smelling me thoroughly before allowing me to touch him, just to make sure I was me. He was a little more spooky on the ground than usual, especially about having his bridle put on (methinks that in the period between the Mutterer backing him and my meeting him, somebody has twitched his ears), but once I was on he was absolutely impeccable. He makes me smile every single time. When I walk up to that horse there is nothing in the whole world but him and Jesus and me.

Oh look, it's my tiny human
Oh look, it’s my tiny human

Another of the Nooitgedachters, a glorious filly that we shall call Arwie Junior because she looks almost exactly like Arwen, was my second ride for the day. Junior has been backed for less than six months, but she could already score fairly well on a Prelim dressage test and scrape through a Novice, too. She has a natural aptitude for dressage unlike any I’ve seen before, putting warmbloods to shame. Today we worked on leg-yields for the second time ever and got walk leg-yields all the way across the arena on the diagonal, as well as a little trot leg-yield from the quarter line to the track. Such a pleasure to ride her. Her greatest flaw is also her greatest strength – her tremendously long stride. She sees no reason to shorten it when moving at full extension is so much fun, but it’s improving.

The third Nooitie of the day was a little chestnut mare with a real Nooitie brain. She’d never been handled, apart from being fed apples and having her nose petted, when we first met her and in two sessions I was riding her around the ring without any tantrums. This time we finally got the canter on the correct leg all the way around the arena, once on each rein. Canter has been a bit of a sticky point for her; she is a laid-back slowpoke type that I think will do well in a riding school.

Today was a more relaxed day; the Mutterer and I took Arwie and Thun for a long outride. It was an entirely new venture for Thunder as we went up the public road and onto a neighbouring game farm, then up and down some rather steep and rocky hills and through the indigenous scrub there. Despite being dead nervous for the first ten minutes, Thunder soon hit his stride and fell into step beside Arwen with that beautiful, swinging, relaxed stride that I love so much. I could ride his walk all day long and not get bored. He had no major incidents, just a few minor spooks, which I felt was very impressive of him. He had to deal with a lot of new things, including strange dogs running up and barking, eland, springbuck, wildebeest and ostriches (HATE OSTRICHES). Arwen was also very good; she remains a bit spooky even with the Mutterer, but was much more forward-going than the last time he rode her, and seemed to carry him without any effort at all. (Although he could probably knot his ankles together under her belly).

(Footnote for foreigners: This thing is an eland, the largest of all antelope. I don’t know their exact mass, but I know they’re as tall as horses and can jump really freakishly high. Also that when a herd of them takes off running, most horses entirely lose their brains).

I was so happy with my little Thun. He was an absolute pleasure to ride, forward, relaxed and confident in his good moments, merely jittery in his bad ones. He’s developing into the horse I need, the one his mother has been for me for so many years – the horse that you can saddle up and ride into the sunset without having to worry about being bucked off, or about frame or rhythm or engagement, and spend a few hours in our glorious little corner of Africa concentrating only on praising our amazing Creator God and keeping the horse between you and the ground.

Glory to the King.

FCEBH: Satin for the Queen

What is your favorite ribbon / prize / award that you’ve won in relation to horses? Is there a story behind it? Or was it a bucket list prize you’d been chasing for ages? It doesn’t have to be from a traditional horse show, and ribbons that are the favorite bc they are the prettiest are just as awesome as awards with a great story. 

My favourite ribbon is probably Arwen’s first place in her first dressage test, not only because it was one of my few actual successes in terms of placings, but also because it took quite an effort to even get in the dressage arena to do the test. We had just been eliminated from the 80cm class for having three stops by the second fence, so we both had to dig pretty deep to forgive one another and get back in harmony. In the end we just settled back into each other and rode the test as well as we’d ever ridden it, barring one botched transition.

So proud
So proud

But come to think of it, there is one another ribbon that comes in a very close second, and that’s the first ribbon I ever won on my own horse. It was almost six years ago, I was twelve years old and blissfully unaware of my extreme ignorance, and the local riding school was holding a gymkhana. We borrowed somebody’s trailer and Skye, despite not having seen a trailer for about six years, stepped right into it.

It was chaos, as the local gymkhanas usually are. Skye was a woolly mammoth and I gave up on trying to get the dust out of her hair, making up for it by plaiting a bunch of red ribbons into her mane. (Poor Skye has put up with a lot). I strapped on my old starter kit saddle, which I still use for backing baby horses because now I don’t care if they fall on it, and scrambled on. The arrangement was somewhat haphazard; we all warmed up together in a 20m lunging ring, during which Skye had every right to kick the other horses and most graciously did not. The instructor bellowed at me through her megaphone when I dared to ask my horse to trot, telling me I was going to make her tired before I even got into the ring.

Skye, albeit unendingly trustworthy and entirely bombproof, had nearly no schooling. In fact, horses that come to me for 8 weeks’ backing are probably better schooled when they leave than she was then. She could walk and trot and canter and stop and turn and jump little jumps, and that was it. Bending was optional, going on the bit was a rare bonus, and cantering on the correct lead was totally out of the question. We were both, however, totally fearless, and there was also the matter of the riding school horses’ schooling – there wasn’t any. Skye looked like a graded dressage horse. We blasted through the gymkhana course and came second in the jumping, having gone clear.

The walk-and-canter race was our great moment of triumph. It was simple enough; we all lined up at one end of the field, galloped across to the other side, turned around and walked back. If you broke into a trot you had to make a circle. The first one across the finish line was obviously the winner. Skye and I won by half the length of the field for the simple reason that when we finished the gallop we were the only ones who could stop and turn around immediately instead of randomly wandering off towards the bottom of the field. Also because Skye walks like a steam train when she’s on a mission.

The old charger deserves a medal. She got a ribbon with “clear round” on it, but in my eyes, it might as well have been the 554 red roses awarded to the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

In jodhs for a show

Looky, Another Post!

What can I say, I’m actually a cooler blogger when I have a little extra time on my hands.

I got done studying early today because I gave up on English (exam is tomorrow, tutor has already told me to rewrite the exam in November, super promising, right?) so I had a subject less to slog through. In all seriousness, I did not give up on English, I merely decided that cramming is not my style. Besides, it’s English. What’s to cram? One day’s practice is not going to solve my apparent suckiness, although don’t tell my numerous editors that I suck at English because apparently they did not receive the memo and accept my work anyway.

Magic was first up, and seeing as he burnt quite a lot of energy yesterday, I just lunged him for a few minutes before getting on. He was excellent and calm to lunge, so I expected him to be just fine. He stood like a saint for me to get on and then walked quite calmly into the arena, right up until the point where we passed some rather high khakibos (brush, to non-South Africans) and a tiny sparrow chose that moment to come whirring out of it. Whereupon Magic entirely lost his mind and leapt about three metres into the air. When he touched down I was luckily ready for more freaking out because he did it again, flailing his legs and face in all directions. He was typical Magic, though – no bucking, no shying, nothing dirty, just a total mental meltdown while I sat there like:

until he returned to earth and stood there quivering. Poor guy. Life is so hard on him sometimes. I patted his neck and told him that he was okay, and lo and behold, he believed me. Our relationship truly has improved vastly; neither of us were extraordinarily rattled, and we put it behind us and continued the session calmly, with only one more terrified leap-flail until Magic went to work and totally forgot about the flesh-eating giant mutant monster sparrow. He was, after that, truly excellent. He didn’t buck, he didn’t poke out his nose, and when we jumped a little teeny cross he didn’t turn a hair. I have to seriously work on trusting him to the jumps, though. He doesn’t deserve me hanging onto his face. He’s got this.

Thunder hadn’t been ridden for three weeks due to shows, flu, and the general chaos that my life had dissolved into, so for the first time in many months I threw him on the lunge for a few minutes. It was amazing to see how much stronger he’s become. He used to canter like a real baby in the ring, haphazardly, occasionally disuniting and sometimes crashing into the sides for lack of balance. Today he picked the right lead and cruised around on a little circle with apparently no effort.

Thunder2
Sorry, I know my lens was grubby

Riding was a different story. The Bush of Killer Sparrows was apparently deadly to Thunny as well, so he spooked violently every time we passed. Same story – nothing dirty, just his standard spin-run maneovre. I was unimpressed with him because it’s unlike him to be quite that stupid for quite that long over a relatively minor spooky thing, but I put it down to vast amounts of excess energy. We didn’t do much apart from circle around and around in the scary end until he gave me one relaxed walk circle on a loose rein. His lope was all over the place, way more than it has been recently, but he did spin and rein back very nicely for me.

Arwen is entered into her next event (again, an unaffiliated class at a recognised event) in the end of May. I’m not sure whether to be happy or worried. Happy because it’s at President’s Park over fences that she’s jumped before, so the spook factor should be minimised and travelling shouldn’t be a problem.  Happy because it’s a one-day, so we don’t have to spend the night in a stable again. Worried because it’s a one-day, so poor Arwie will have to do showjumping and cross-country on one day. Fitness is obviously quite a priority, so we went for a ride around the neighbour’s racetrack maize fields. I’m not allowed off property without my trusty guard dog, Blizzard, who is quite unfit, so we kept it down to 6km and had a couple of walk breaks, but we definitely burnt some energy. Currently we’re working on trying to find a variety of different types of canter – obviously our working canter, then a showjumping/medium canter, a highly collected and bouncy “changes canter”, a big travelling hand-gallop that I’m trying to make just over 25kph (440mpm), and of course our full gallop. Always fun to be going at speed on a fit horse.

Landscape1
That horizon calls Arwen’s name

The Mutterer has sent me a new mare to school after I sold his beautiful roan gelding to an awesome family. The little mare has already been sold but was out of work for a while so she’s just getting a quick tune-up. She is a rock solid, totally unflappable ride, her only flaw being some laziness, which the dressage whip should fix pretty fast.

Finally, I tossed Skye’s bridle on and took her majesty for a little walking hack. She enjoyed it tremendously, jogging and prancing all the way home whilst the human on her back wittered something about arthritic knees – she wasn’t really listening. Oh, old warrior queen. Afterwards I did milk deliveries with bareback butt, but I owe her the world. She is so happy and bright and indomitable and wonderful.

Glory to the amazing King.

<3

Back in the Groove

Because when you can use an Emperor’s New Groove gif, why wouldn’t you?

So the last two weeks were insanity, but also awesomeness. We took a truckload of Jerseys to Bloemfontein and my pet prized heifer was Northern Champion Jersey Heifer. She deserved it.

JoyfulMerida5
Yes, fellow horse people, cows can be this elegant

We slept in the horsebox, which was awesome but cold, and I came home sick with flu. Last week Wednesday I decided I was all better just because I didn’t feel like dying when I was in bed, and nearly repeated that rather embarrassing incident last year when the Mutterer had to scrape my unconscious body out from under a horse’s feet. Whereupon I stayed in bed some more, and only actually got to climb on my horses for real again this afternoon.

Arwen was fantastic. I changed our jumps a little bit, putting up a 1.00m (3′ 3″) vertical, a Swedish oxer that was around 80-85cm (2′ 9″) in the middle, and a little skinny that was more kind of emaciated. (This was achieved by making a stack of tyres, three high and two wide, so it was around 65cm or 2′ 3″). Arwen had jumped the vertical before, but we’d had a couple of stops at it mostly due to the height. Today she was awesome and popped over like no big deal. The Swedish oxer gave her pause for thought a few times, once again mostly because of me. She’s honest that way – she stops when I mess up but jumps every single time when I do my job. So when I got my act together she jumped the oxer just fine.

The skinny gave her pause for thought because she wasn’t sure that we were supposed to jump it. She kept steering out, not with a reluctant sort of attitude but giving me the impression that she was thinking “Wow, stupid human, let’s not crash into the tyres, shall we?” Eventually I insisted that I did want to jump it and she said “Ooooh why didn’t you say so?” and popped over. Because she drifts, it was a bit of a sticky point and we ran out a few times before she gave me some good efforts from the trot and canter, and I called it a day.

Next I rode this adorable 13.1hh pony that I have to back for some kids. He was easy enough to back but doesn’t have any brakes to speak of, mostly because he has some awful wolf teeth. For now I’m schooling him in a halter and he’s actually pretty sweet. He’s a very loving little pony. Interestingly enough he seems to have a goodly dose of Basuto blood, a breed that is near to my heart. The Basuto originates in the mountains of Lesotho and is renowned for its toughness, stamina, hardiness and amazing hooves, characteristics that it passed on when it was crossed with the Arabian and Boerperd to produce my beloved Nooitgedachters.

Agenta1
First ride. Look how tall I am!

I lunged Vastrap for 10 minutes or so because he hadn’t been ridden in two weeks, but he was an angel to catch (he can be skittish about that) and was his usual saintly self on the lunge, so I didn’t even mount him myself before putting Mom on and taking them for walkies. Vastrap has begun to put on some weight and muscle tone. He’s beautiful. His personality has also started to blossom; he no longer has that hunted look about him, except sometimes under saddle. Mom’s rides are doing him the world of good because she doesn’t put any pressure on him, and he needs that.

I didn’t have a lot of time for Magic, but I put him in the ring and “free lunged” him. This, in Magic language, means standing in the middle for 10 minutes and not doing anything very much while Magic tears around at a terrifying pace, enjoying himself. Normally he’s superb to free lunge, but he really had ants in his pants today, so I decided against arguing with him and just let him run until his brain came back. Then we had some laps of beautiful relaxed canter and practiced some transitions on voice commands. Magic is excellent with voice commands. I think he uses his sense of hearing a vast amount. He’s probably my most vocal horse, and he responds instantaneously to voice commands; scary noises frighten him a lot more quickly than anything else does. My voice also soothes him an enormous amount when he’s nervous. It’s a good thing he’s not a dressage horse or one of our most important lines of communication would be against the rules.

Lastly I took Professor X for a walk. We’ve graduated to taking little hikes around the homestead; I take the precaution of a lunging line in case he freaks out and rears (I’ve had an 11hh pony come down on my empty head and that was bad enough), but I haven’t needed it yet. He does like me to approach a scary object and touch it with him standing about 10m away on the end of the line. Once I’ve touched it, it’s apparently okay. He’s extremely spooky but, most importantly, very considerate of my personal space. He doesn’t run over me even when he’s really frightened or pulling for home. In fact, one day when Thunder and Flare decided to come running up at about 100kph, Exavior understandably shied sideways towards me. Mid-leap I could see him think, “Oh, sugar!” and then he made a valiant effort and managed to miss me by a comfortable distance. With a horse his size, this is immensely important, so I’m pleased that my drilling has paid off. He’s kind of a pain about his head when I put his halter on, though. He stands with his nose on the floor and I have to bend over to buckle it. Not too bad for a colt whose ears you couldn’t touch six months ago. I love him so much.

Glory to the beloved King.