Week Recap: 26th March

After a very damp and slow time last week, we were all raring to get back into action this week. The weather played along absolutely beautifully with a whole series of calm, sunny, balmy days and bone dry footing making for some serious riding.

My jump exercise of the week was a little grid, mostly because I fear and despise grids and therefore should do several of them to get myself over it and convince myself of their usefulness. It was a simple one, but quite daunting for pole-phobic yours truly: 3 trotting poles to a small cross, one stride to a vertical, one stride to another vertical.

Magic was the highlight of my week, which he’s pretty good at being. Still working on getting him forward off the leg, I was also able to get a couple of consist trot leg-yields from him, riding him in the snaffle. He’s no Valegro, but I was thrilled when he gave me the Novice 5 leg-yields beautifully (10m circle at L, then leg-yield back to the track around R). I was nervous to take him through my little grid because I thought he might make a mistake and then we’d flail and panic through it, but what do you know – he was perfect. I did have to make the one strides a little longer as I’d set them for ponies, but even when it was too short, he just took the short distances and popped in an out like a good grownup horse. I have video evidence.

 

Arwen was the one who actually introduced me to the grid. She was good up until I put up the first vertical, at which she had a dishonest and unreasonable stop, so I gave her a good one along the backside with my crop. These stops are becoming a naughty habit of hers. Thereafter she didn’t try it again and jumped with a more Arwen-like gusto, popping through the whole thing with great enthusiasm and even some straightness. She was so good that it stopped being scary and even became really, really fun at one point, something Arwen is excellent at doing for me. She also put in two solid flatwork sessions, giving me her best haunches in along the track so far. Her canter was a little weak on Friday, though. She also packed some students around on outrides, which she enjoyed greatly as they don’t seem to be able to stop her from eating anything that happens to grow at nose level.

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Nellie had a relaxed but good week. She has been struggling with bend and suppleness lately, so we had an intensive lesson with the Mutterer on Wednesday working on that. We did a whole lot of Parelli flexions, finding her a lot stiffer to the right than the left (as expected). She still tends to fall against my right leg quite a bit but working on getting that better. As a side note, when she got stuffy and frustrated with lateral work and flexions, I was ordered to take her for a gallop around the jumping arena. This worked like a charm. It really got her thinking forward and relaxed again. I’ll definitely be using that trick in the future. I led a couple of outrides on her as well and she was super – relaxed, confident, just a little looky.

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Our God is an artist!

Exavior was a bit of a dweeb. Temporarily abandoning the lunging idea – the lunge ring is inconveniently situated in a paddock full of usually very calm schoolies; I doubt they would remain so calm should an angry young colt pull free and run into them – we started working on loading. The first couple of days were dreadful. Day one he was spooky and nervous; day two he realised how sympathetic I can be when he is nervous, so he pushed his luck and became downright rude and stubborn. On the third day, both sick of arguing, we finally both pulled together. I exercised more patience, which eventually persuaded him to exercise some brainpower, and he climbed into the box without further ado. We loaded him three or four times with the butt rope and he became calmer each time.

This was Sookie’s first full week of work, having had an easy week to settle in (I spent a whole session just scrubbing her so that her white could be properly white again), and she adjusted very well. She is getting a pile of maize-containing broodmare feed at the moment; I only had to lunge her once before I decided to change her over onto something without maize in it because normally ploddy Sookie was doing handstands and trying to squash my little dog. The next day she was much better and I walked her around the ring; and on the third day I climbed right up and rode her around the ring in three gaits. Her canter right was very awkward, and she felt like bucking, but I booted her through it and put it down to poor balance and lack of muscle tone. She was very willing, supple, and responsive, though – all hugely in her favour. Then we walked and trotted around the spooky big arena and she impressed me by not doing any of the dramatic spooks she used to when she was a baby.

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Bruno also had a massive successful week. He just goes from strength to strength. After having some time off for the kick to his ribs, he was hardly hyper at all and the first time I rode him I was already asking for canter both ways. He has an irritating habit of drifting towards the inside of the ring, especially on the left rein, but doesn’t get violent about it. Just general baby pony stuff. Our last session was the best of all. I didn’t lunge him, just hopped on and did 3 gaits in the ring, then had a walk around the unfenced big arena. He was super. I love him more each time I sit on him. A confidence giver since the day he was backed – some lucky kid is going to have a blast on him.

As Lancelot’s sacroiliac injury was less tender, towards the end of the week I also brought him in and gave him a little lunging. He moves quite sound, but I didn’t put any weight on his back just in case. He was very well behaved and not at all as hyper as he usually is, but a little clumsy. I am very wary to be working him much until the chiro sorts out his back, so we’ll stick to light lunging and basic groundwork – loading and bathing – until that’s been done.

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Lunging photos FTW

Our new arrival also had her first work week. Whisper is a little cremello mare that is here to be schooled and resold. I backed her in the spring for her owner and had put in some basics – walk and trot, a few steps of canter – before she was turned away for a few months. She is a very happy-go-lucky sort that is not much bothered by anything really, and I was back on her in short order doing everything we’d done before barring the canter. She finds the ring rather too small to balance at a canter with her rider on, so we’ll try that out in the big arena next week. On the ground she’s incredibly easy and relaxed to handle, which is a good thing, because dabbing sunscreen around pink cremello eyes is made considerably easier by a cooperative horse.

Thunder and Stardust had a very busy and good week being loved to bits by their kids. Dusty went on her first proper long group outride and was a perfect little angel, not putting a toenail wrong. Dusty is rather good at being a perfect little angel. Baby Thunder remains occasionally careless over fences, but still his straight, solid self.

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The best schoolies ❤

Another blessed week with my beloved King Jesus at His own stableyard. How great Thou art! ❤ With this being Easter Weekend, we are more thankful than ever for what He did for us. We will never forget Your sacrifice. How could we when what You have done sets us free every single day? When Your courage and love changed our lives forever? Thank You Lord ❤

Week Recap: 13th March

The yard is bursting at the seams and yet a little empty right now; we have 20 horses in residence but only 10 in training, down from the usual 14. One of my training horses came up with a chronic back injury; another did one too many handstands with me, causing me to call in the big guns, and he is now waiting on his lift back to the Mutterer to be sorted out; and two more were sold within a week of arriving.

This turned out to be a good thing, because it was bucketing down almost every afternoon and the whole of Wednesday. Usually I tend to have this attitude

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but not today, kids. It was cold and nobody needs to be sick, so it was just a slow week for everyone.

We still managed to make some progress. Magic had Monday off and then came back into work strongly, working hard on being more responsive off my leg and developing a forward, powerful showjumping canter, like the one we won with on Sunday (whoop!). When I got him he was extremely hypersensitive to my leg and somewhere along the line I have made him too dull to my leg, so now it’s back to getting more responsiveness. He finished the week on an incredibly high note, jumping an 80-85cm course that looked scary to me right up until he jumped the first fence. After that it was euphoria. I got him really deep to the second element of a bending line landing downhill, and he just put up his little knees and popped over it like no big deal. He was making 4 strides in every one of the lines (which walked for 5), so we even got our big canter going again. I was grinning all over my face every time I got off him this week. I know I say this a lot, but that is one special horse.

After his month off, I brought Exavior in and lunged him, which started fine but disintegrated into a minor disaster. He always used to live in the paddock right next to the lunging ring, so bringing him in and lunging him was a doddle; but now that I moved him out we need to pass a whole crew of mares and geldings he doesn’t know and it brought out his colt face. He was very good on the way there, though. Lunging-wise he was hyper and inattentive but extremely obedient, and on the way back he was a jerk. He managed to pull away from me (gloves, stupid!), charged through the gate and tried to jump on the nearest gelding, which gave him a well-deserved kick. Colts. I have two of them and they both need to be de-colted ASAP.

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The handsomest boys. Who remembers when Exavior (2) was shorter than Magic (8)?

Little Bruno has been coming along beautifully. After coming off a youngster I was backing last summer, my confidence with the babies took a massive hit. I had started probably 10 young horses last year and was getting a little workaday and didn’t read this one properly, so when I climbed on him he bucked vehemently until I ate dirt. It was quite a painful one too, resulting in a satisfyingly large purple bruise, but the memory of it remained every time I had to face up to a youngster. One of the Arop Nooities, a ploddy mare deep into her teens who could not have been surprised by anything, helped me part of the way through it by graciously letting me on board, but I was yet to start a youngster again. So 10 weeks of groundwork it was until I could no longer stand it and climbed onto my cute little pony who didn’t turn a hair. Seriously guys – that Nooitie temperament is just unbeatable. Bruno learned to canter this week, giving me 4 strides and a smooth transition without any drama. He is a little fussy with his mouth but not too bad. On Friday he felt kind of weird, like he was thinking about throwing in a buck, but later that evening he came in for dinner with a lump the size of a rugby ball right on his girth area so that would explain it. The new girl on the block must have been unimpressed by his romantic endeavours. The swelling is down markedly today so I think it’s just a big, ouchy bruise.

Lancelot is my other training project, a lanky dapple-grey Arab gelding who’s just gone three. Lance is a bit of a puzzle, which I’m still figuring out, but it helps to think of him as a kind of short baby Magic. He is super sweet and a total cuddle bunny right up until something scares him, when he loses his brains and goes ballistic. Heaven forbid I scare him because then the wheels fall off. We are beginning to understand one another, and his groundwork is more or less done, so on Tuesday I had a sit on him and had him back up a few steps and he didn’t do a thing. Unfortunately on Friday he came up with a suspected sacroiliac injury; not lame or stiff, but he has a very painful and sensitive area between his two hip bones. The chiro will be out to check that out ASAP.

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Bruno is adorable and he knows it

Thunder and Stardust had a chilled week with most of their lessons raining out, but both were their usual incredibly well-behaved selves. I school them both once a week to keep them sharp and they went beautifully. Thunny jumped a course of quite tall crosses with his usual ploddy, workmanlike reliability – he will go between the uprights every single time, although sometimes the poles won’t quite stay up. Stardust used to refuse to canter right but gave me two laps of the arena solid this week. Sadly she also came up lame on Friday (seriously horses what have you been doing?!) but should be better after having the weekend off.

Last but by no means least, Sookie arrived this week. I’ve been riding Sookie on and off for her owner for a while – probably four and a half or five years by now – and now she’s come for some more intensive training. I’ll admit to be excited to add another one to “my” competitive string. She settled in quite well, once the other horses had accepted her, and now looms happily over the group of native ponies wherever they go. Comically, 16hh imported German warmblood Sookie has made friends with 14hh veld pony Stardust. She has been bred the past two years and had two fine big foals, so she needs some weight and retraining, but I doubt it’ll be long before the big girl hits the show ring. She was virtually show ready last time I sat on her so we just have to dust things off a bit.

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Poor Bruno, he likes tall girls

Nell and Arwen rounded off the week with a successful graded dressage show on Sunday. I made the mistake of giving Arwen a goodly handful of her energy supplement that morning, which was idiotic to say the least. She wasn’t spooky or naughty, but she took one look at the dressage arena and said CROSS COUNTRYYYYY. When I explained that there were no fences and thus it could not be cross country, she demanded if that was a challenge and proceeded to demonstrate exactly how a fat Nooitgedachter mare can do cross country without any jumps required. Still, she finished on 59% for Novice 3 and 60% for Novice 2, with comments of “obedient”, “willing” (I don’t think this horse has ever finished a test without a “willing” comment) and a diplomatic “needs more suppling over the neck and back”, which I can only assume is dressage code for “pulls rider’s arms off”.

Nell warmed up beautifully but became separation anxious once we actually went in, so Novice 2 was horrible; we spooked dramatically, broke, shied, had a little buck, squealed a few times and fell in a heap at X for 52%. By Novice 3 she had settled enormously and had an obedient test for the comment “lovely” and “steady”, which she was, barring one nasty moment when the Friesian next door spooked and she spooked at it spooking. She still felt a little mediocre, for Nell, and didn’t have any wow moments, but got 59% which I won’t sniff at. I was proud of how quickly she settled down; her separation anxiety is a problem but every time we go out it improves a little, so someday we’ll be rid of it for good.

 

3 Years of Magic

It took nearly three years to the day for Magic to get me to his first graded show (Magic did most of the getting, poor soul), but we did it. This is the journey so far, and I have a feeling it’s just the preface to what’s to come. God willing.

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Early 2012

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Mid 2013

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August 2013

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October 2013

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October 2014

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November 2014

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March 2015

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May 2015

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August 2015

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January 2016

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February 2016

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March 2016

We have been brought this far on the love of God and on the back of a great horse. ❤

House of Champions Showjumping

Having ridden five clear rounds at 70cm on Magic (yes, five) I finally decided that it was time for him to jump graded. We picked a small and low-profile show nearby for this, which fortunately ran a training show as well, so I could haul some of the kids along too.

Magic was nervous for exactly 5 minutes of his initial warm up, where I rode him around the training warmup with the kids to make sure everyone’s brains were on. After that he went straight to work, lolloping over the tiny crosses and looking faintly bored. He had one fairly dramatic spook, nearly landing on top of Vastrap and his lease kid, but got over it remarkably quickly. Then, to my dismay, I found the way to the graded warmup. It was terrifying. A twisty, windy little path leading past the Manure Heap of Death, traversing the Cursed Stable Yard, heading into the Dark Woods and then passing (gasp!) the Water Feature of Doom. Magic doesn’t even do hacks. This was a spooky trail of terror and I was pretty sure the entire show was about to go severely downhill. Resigning myself to our fate, I left the kiddies with the Mutterer and began the trek.

I needn’t have worried. Magic was, obviously, petrified. So was I, but we kept it together just fine. All he did was stop and stare at things, snort once, and then keep going when I asked. We made it to the warmup in one piece, whereupon my stomach did a nasty little flip; the edge of the warmup was a few trees and a fence away from the main road, down which trucks and motorbikes were roaring and screeching. Once again, I wrote off the show in my head, and once again, Magic was a pro. He sort of wiggled his ears at it and then went directly to work, the angel. He really is starting to grow up. We had a lovely warmup, with one random little stop at the oxer (we both just fluffed the stride; he came right around and popped over it again) before I quickly walked the course. It was lovely – a decent height, but going easy on the filler. The only really scary thing was the second element of the combination, which had quite dramatic wings and was an oxer, but it was a two-stride and I had a feeling Magic would be just fine. Wings aren’t generally an issue for him.

There were only two horses in the class, which kept things even more low-key. The first horse jumped an easy, powerful clear, and then we were cantering down to the start of our very first graded showjumping track ever. Magic locked onto the first fence and took me straight over and all was beautiful from there onwards, except for the first element of the scary combination. I didn’t see the distance and just looked up and hoped for the best; Magic squished in a tiny half stride and a bunny hop, reached the second element at the most ploddy canter ever, and flowed over it without further ado. The rest of the course just slipped by under him and we were into the jump-off. This was simple, over the first 6 fences without any funky turns, and we basically went straight back in and did it. The other horse had a very careful clear round. I asked Magic to go up a gear and he hit a really nice forward rhythm, which carried us beautifully around the course. With his better stride he jumped the combination without batting an eyelid and I knew he’d done well when we galloped through the finish.

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Magic won the class by 11 seconds. He also won a scary bag of fly stuff, so we had a very dignified lap of honour at the working trot while I held the bag where he couldn’t see it and prayed that it wouldn’t make any noises. We hurried back down to the training arena just in time for Liana to cart me around the 30cm, a warmup round to ensure she didn’t overjump her kid off, and totally unnecessary. She was calm and ready from the get-go. The kids and ponies went on to be awesome and kick butt; they did the 40-60cm classes, with Vastrap and his kid winning the 40cm and Liana and her kid coming second in the 50cm. And Vastrap only ran away once, which in his defence his kid appeared to greatly enjoy. (The Mutterer, less so).

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Then it was back up the Trail of Doom for Magic’s second class. This time he was very chilled about the whole thing. Towards the end of the warmup I could feel him flagging slightly, so we did as little cantering as we could. I did put the warmup fences up to about 80cm as the next class was an accumulator and the joker was about as high and wide as the Great Wall of China, except that the Great Wall of China doesn’t have huge wings or terrifying flower boxes. I deliberated jumping it, but decided that if Magic felt good we would try it – go big or go home, right?

And felt good he did. He walked into the show ring with floppy ears like an old hand and willingly charged at number one, flowing around the course at a steady pace. It had a few very tricky little turns in it, but I sat down on him and he made them all easily, even angling one of the jumps without a care in the world. We had a really unfortunate rail at number seven. We didn’t even hit it on a bad stride; I think I just didn’t give him enough juice for it and he was a little tired, so he tapped it with his right front toe and down it went. Then we came around the corner and the joker was sitting in front of us. I was absolutely wetting myself, but Magic had already locked onto it, so I rode him at it with a prayer in my (very dry) mouth and he jumped it perfectly.

And I mean perfectly.

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Any show where Magic goes home with four functional legs and a stomach that works is a good one, and this was an awesome one. He was so mature, so steady, and jumped beautifully. All horses and riders involved had a blast and we even got a smile out of the Mutterer.

And glory and praise and thanks to our beloved, beloved King Jesus. ❤

 

Horse of the Year 2016

Whew. What a show! God walked with us every step of the way and with all our highs and lows, we still had an absolute blast.

It kicked off really well with Nell winning Supreme Champion Purebred Nooitgedachter Mare, again. She started out really fresh and bouncy, but by the championship classes she had settled right down and stood up quietly for inspection, which is a first for Nell. Obviously she had to do her obligatory hair flip and sideways canter during the victory lap, though.

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Because nobody else trots like this

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She was my champion long before ❤

Not to be outdone, Liana came second in her very strong in-hand class, being absolutely angelic for her adorable kid.

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The kid remembered everything I told him about handling, too

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She’s kind of in love with her kid

Arwen was Champion Sport Horse In Hand, but in all fairness this was not very hard, considering she was the only one. She was impeccably behaved and all the judge could go on about was how she looks so much like Nell and whether I was sure that they’re not related. (All judges please note: 1. Yes, I am sure I have the right horse. 2. No, they are not related. 3. Yes, I am sure about that, too. What do you want, a DNA profile?)

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Pretending to not be a dragon

 

Show riding was somewhat less successful. Unfortunately, there were no novice classes, so for show riding the greenies got lumped in with 12-year-old bombproof stallions ridden by old veterans who have been champions many times over. Nell wasn’t bad, for Nell – never naughty and I didn’t have to cling on for dear life at all – but she broke to canter a few times and was definitely not the image of the well-mannered, effortless-to-ride showing horse. Fabulous, yes. Quiet, not so much. Still, the judge said that she has great potential and will get there with more training and exposure; she has everything she needs, she’s just still kind of a baby. Also this random warmblood threw its rider and galloped into our arena while poor Nell was still walking around and trying to brain, from which she never really recovered.

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Still gorgeous

Liana was tense about the whole new experience, but took awesome care of her kid. He got all his leads and diagonals perfectly for a well-deserved third place. She’s not really a show pony, but they both tried their guts out.

Arwen decided to redeem both the purebreds by being the picture of manners, elegance and obedience. She came third too, in a strong class, and was an absolute joy to ride – and I think she looked it.

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In the end it was another stunning stallion bred by Arop Stud that was ridden supreme champion, as well as gelding champion in hand, working riding champion, and adults’ Novice dressage champion – in fact, Arop won almost every class it entered with the exception of the children’s and partbreds’ show riding.

Soon afterwards, it was off to go do the working hunter with Arwen. Going off alone turned out to be a stupid idea. Arwen spent her warmup doing handstands and going insane, at which point obviously the Mutterer pitched up and stared aghast as his most experienced rider and pony went broncing around the arena. We still hadn’t quite settled down yet when we came dragoning in to salute the judge, but this turned out to be a good thing as Arwen was much too fired up to think of stopping and jumped a splendid clear round. We both had a blast. We were alone in our class and I stayed on and steered, so we were Partbred Working Hunter champions and got to go through to the Supremes on the Sunday.

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Rawr

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Cuz jumping in the middle is for… uh… hunters…

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Who cares about bushes or gates? Not dragon ponies

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Good Narwie

Dressage was sturdy and uneventful; Liana and her kid got a little lost, but scraped their brains off the floor, got it together admirably and finished second. Nell was third out of three, but to be fair there must have been easily six years’ age difference between herself and her competitors (we will not mention the age difference between their riders). She obediently and willingly completed all the Novice 4 and 5 movements, including her first walk-canter transitions, 12m circles and leg-yields in competition, so I was totally happy with that. Arwen was again the only partbred to do Novice, so automatically won, scoring a respectable 60 for her first Novice 5.

To my great relief (and, it must be said, surprise) all three the girls had a peaceful night and behaved impeccably in their stables. Okay, so Arwen kicked the door and woke up all the fancy horses and their grooms at 5:30am because she was hungry, but that is still impeccable for Arwen. (Dragons don’t live in stables). We started the morning all fresh and chirpy, with the possible exception of the longsuffering Morning Star Stables Groom, who had been rained on in the night. Nell was a lunatic waiting to go in for pre-judging but managed to put her brain back in her head by the time she went in and stood remarkably still during the incredibly long and boring in-hand class. I like in-hand, but 37 horses? That makes for a lot of standing in the line-up.

Straight afterwards I was onto Arwen for the working hunter supremes, which was a blast. Arwen warmed up raring to go, threatened to kick somebody’s valuable hunter and stormed into the arena with smoke coming out of her nose. I, starstruck and petrified, had to try three times to get the correct lead. That done, we jumped the three smallest fences at 60cm in the boring but functional course I had walked for us. She was extremely looky to the first two fences, so they didn’t look awfully pretty, but she left them standing. The third fence was beautiful – she just flowed over it and galloped her heart out. We trotted up to the judge, saluted, and left the arena before I could hyperventilate. We came nowhere in the placings, fairly obviously, but it was a blast. The only really bad part was standing in the line-up – I had to  repeatedly yank on my horse because she was trying to eat the iconic Bob Charter arena.

Nell was next up for the in-hand breed supreme championships. For this she was once again very well-mannered and patient. We didn’t finish in the top 10, but this turned out not to be such a bad thing as being excused early was the only way we made it to our YHPS dressage class on time.

The Young Horse Performance Series is something that newbs do not do, but, being a newb, I didn’t get this memo and entered it in a fit of reckless enthusiasm. When I saw my name lined up alongside the likes of our WEG competitors and South African champions, I figured it was way too late to pull out and I may as well show up. This is exactly what we did. Nell, the smallest horse in the class, one of few South African breds and the only non-warmblood or Friesian of the entire show, had a total meltdown in the warmup arena. To be fair, we both did. We were already tense when we walked in and then Chere Burger rode past (perfectly – she is a joy to watch) and my nerves got the better of me. Poor old Nell and I spooked around and around the warmup until eventually with a deep breath and a prayer I got a hold of myself and my horse and we settled down. She was going beautifully when the announcer called us in (stumbling over the Afrikaans Nooitgedachter names). Some poor kind lady pointed out to be that there was daylight between my horse and my girth, I fixed it, and in we went.

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Nell has never felt better. She came down the centre line a little crooked and a little above the bit, but confident, relaxed, and happy. She threw her quarters out to the right a little in the halt and I looked up at the square of sky beyond the judges’ box and saluted my God. And after that none of the big names mattered; what mattered was the horse, and this next movement, and the dance.

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That fantastic young horse went out there and did the Nooitgedachter breed proud. Sure, she was a little crooked, and a little stiff, and a little on the forehand, but with her green rider and all she stood up to that excellent company she was in. We finished dead last, but with a respectable 59.6% – 1.4% behind the second-to-last horse. The judge complimented her willingness, obedience, and good nature. She tried her guts out and I was really proud of her.

With that, three very tired Nooitie mares, four equally tired Hydes, a relatively chuffed Mutterer and the exhausted Groom went home. And thanked our God. ❤