After SANESA and with the long weekend looming, everyone’s been in a bit of a holiday mood.
And around here, that means only one thing:
I think my kids must hate me because I’m still not so happy with cantering with kids on hacks, but this managed to be a lot of fun for all concerned, regardless.
We headed off in a bunch: L on Stardust, Sunè and her adorable kid, Liana and her kid, Vastrap and his kid and Lullaby bringing up the rear, peeved at having to pack my fat behind around.
Accompanied, as always, by the ever-faithful Ice. How he manages to keep up on those little legs, not to mention running after all the fieldmice and smells that catch his fancy, nobody knows. But I love that he’s always right beside us.
Sunè is just a superstar. Her kid is only eight and tends to get distracted and forget where he’s going, instead choosing to drop the reins and admire the view, but Sunè never minds being left behind and just ambles patiently along. Shouts of “Catch up, buddy!” spur the kiddo to flap his legs and Sunè happily canters to the middle of the ride and then flops back into walk without being asked.
Needless to say, spooking isn’t even in her vocabulary.
Isn’t creation amazing? It always awes me that God didn’t just make a world that was functional and complex and amazingly engineered down to its last atom, down to the deepest miracles of science. It would have been enough if the world was just incredible, if creation provided us as creatures only with nourishment and necessities. But because He’s a God of love, an Artist and a bit of a Poet sometimes, He didn’t just make the world good. He made it beautiful.
Dusty, of course, was her reliable little self – albeit pulling somewhat on the way home. The dentist saw her today and sorted out her bit seats so he said that’ll help but honestly I think she was just kinda excited.
Even Liana and Vastrap, traditionally hot on hacks, plopped along very happily and enjoyed the view.
It’s a beautiful thing to be a kid with a good chestnut mare and miles upon miles of open space at your disposal. I know because I was that kid. Nostalgia.
A good little bay mare will do fine, too.
Look at those little faces. If you want to make your kid happy, buy them a good Nooitie.
For this show I don’t have to apologise for lack of media, because Fine Photography was there and stunning photos will follow!
On Friday evening, I only got home at one in the morning. Despite being 20, this was not because I was out doing whatever it is that young people do in an attempt to forget/have fun/get themselves killed. Nope. I was playing tagalong to the real medics, my second ever volunteering shift. Isn’t it amazing how God sends us to do things we’d never ever dream of ourselves doing, and then we find a deep happiness in it? If you had told me a year ago that I’d be having the time of my life bundling people up in Emergency Rescue Blankets (looks like tinfoil) and sticking plasters on fingers, I would never have believed you.
Yet there I was. And there I was on Saturday morning, somewhat bleary-eyed and en route to a busy SANESA Q2. This was the qualifier where snot got real: you need three qualifying rounds (placings in the top eight) to go to Finals and with only four qualifiers, that turns up the heat from the second one onwards.
The ponies and riders, however, stepped up and delivered.
Vastrap and his kiddo blazed through their accumulator class with the adrenaline pumping so high that kiddo clean forgot about fence number eight and blasted right past it. At the dismayed cries from the crowd, she went back and popped over without circling, still managing to finish in the top eight.
They turned and burned in their competition class and placed third in very good company. The little rider is super, but it has to be said that VT is one in a million.
Pennie and G had a fantastic show. They kicked it off by placing fourth in the accumulator. An unlucky pole in the competition landed them just out of the placings, but they came back to win their equitation and working hunter classes. Pennie didn’t stop even once, so apparently my rude bellows of “SMACK THE PONY” from outside the warmup arena were effective (albeit badly received by the general public).
A similar approach with Zorro also started to take effect. Poor Z-kid was nervous in the first class and got lost; a goodly pep-talk and much guts from her later, she handled Zorro’s cheekiness in the second class well, getting him around with eight penalties. By working hunter time he was being a model citizen and popped over everything without looking back, placing second. I am immeasurably proud of this young lady for getting herself up off the floor the way she did.
K was nervous for this show and Thunder reciprocated by being tense and shouty, but she kept it together and he was as honest as the day, plopping around his 60cm equitation class like a good chap for first place. Their dressage unfortunately was unnecessarily tense, possibly because they only arrived at the warm up ten minutes before their ride time and I was running around after the little kids and didn’t get much time to spend with them. Such is the lot of my teenagers, I’m afraid. Still, they had a very respectable 58% and 60%, scores that are already promising and can be hugely improved on.
(Oh, and that handsome chap in the photo? That’s my dad. Hands off.)
Liana was a bit hot on the day but was good to her kid and very obedient. There was a minor miscommunication between the kid and the pony regarding which way to turn after the last fence during the first class, resulting in the kid taking an unscheduled dismount. She had the discretion to do this after the finish flags, though, so they placed seventh anyway. She stuck on during the second class but got a little lost, circling for four penalties and landing just outside the placings.
Her prix caprilli test was superb – very accurate and focused – but they were eliminated for going in with boots. I cannot pretend to blame that mistake on sleep deprivation, and I’ll be kicking myself for it for a long, long time. It’s on me and I feel properly bad about it, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that the kiddo rode awesomely.
Last but not least, little Midas was superb. We were late and missed his first jumping class, so I booted the poor boy into the indoor warmup arena with moments to spare before his second class and he just dealt with it and did his job. He popped around his course without turning a hair and finished second, 0.04 seconds behind the winner.
His dressage felt really steady and he got lots of “willing and obedient” comments, the best ones you get. He scored 62% and 64%, with which I am totally satisfied.
The weekend was a huge success, and all my kiddies learnt, rode well, worked together and have a chance of going to finals as a bonus, so it’s well worth the exhaustion looming over my head right now. Further up and further in: Jesus is taking us closer to Him with every step, tiring or not.
We’ve put in lots of work – let’s see how it’s paying off.
Get points for Elementary Medium. One-fifth of the way there; we have 2 points and we need 10. Of course, it would help if we could score better than 59, which I know we can – and we did, at the Nooitie show – so here’s hoping the next show goes better. I know she can do it.
Don’t mess up a show riding/show hack class. We absolutely did this in the general breed show hack at HOY. While we didn’t get a ribbon, when they lined us up, we were just out of the placings in fifth out of a big strong class full of fancy things. She was foot perfect, and I am beyond chuffed.
Jump a graded 80cm round. I’m calling it done because while technically it wasn’t graded, it wasn’t training, either – she jumped the 80cm at the Gauteng Nooitie show with one rider-error pole down. Also cash is a short commodity right now, so coughing up more registration fees for showjumping isn’t gonna happen.
Do some cross-country lessons and/or go drag hunting. Still in the pipeline – we’ll get to this once the SANESA qualifiers have calmed down a bit.
My brave little partner and I continue to put in the hours and the sweaty numnahs, and it continues to work because Arwen always gives back. Good dragon.
Continued improvement on injections. We actually haven’t had to poke many needles into the beast yet. In fact, it took me a second to remember that he had his flu shot in February, because it must have been super uneventful. Whoop! He even let the vet measure him, too, although he did try to bite the chiro (brat).
Show in-hand without rearing. We did this. Twice!! He did rear once, but that wasn’t in the show ring – he spooked at the stables, leapt forward, trampled my heel, got a massive hiding and reared in protest. Fair enough. He never even tried to rear, bite, chop, or kick anyone and I am very happy.
Hack. Even if it’s just to the big gate and back. Sigh. I haven’t even been on it since it tried to kill me in February. However, the Mutterer has been riding him and they did a mini-hack – from the small lunge ring to the dressage arena – without any drama.
By June, have 3 gaits. I admitted defeat long before June and palmed him off on the Mutterer in February. They’re still walking.
Around his fourth birthday, attend a few training shows at walk/trot and Prelim. If he can behave at home, I know he’s the same at shows as he is at home, so he’ll be OK. He just needs to start going somewhere now.
Ultimate goal: be solid at Prelim by the end of the year.
The groundwork goals are working out and he has become quite a pleasure on the ground, really, so that’s my job. Now he and the Mutterer just have to hold up their end of the deal, and so far, it’s working. He’s quit rearing, anyway, so that’s good.
Hack alone and in company. Half-done. He hacks alone nicely (although we’re still working on the cow phobia), so I don’t expect any trouble in company.
Be quiet at shows. Resounding check! He’s angelic in the stable and very sweet to ride, although he can still have the odd whinny, but it doesn’t escalate and decreases with every show. Vastrap’s kid rode him at the last one without any trouble.
Compete up to 70cm showjumping at training shows. He’s jumping 60cm without batting an eye and we’ll be doing higher fences later on. I know he can, I just don’t want to push those baby joints too hard right now. After SANESA season.
Compete up to Prelim at training shows. Absolutely check! With good scores in the high 60’s, too.
Compete at the Nooitie shows. We did Pre-HOY, HOY and Gauteng, which leaves Nationals and Spring Show. Spring Show will depend on if we still have him.
Go cross-country schooling. Not yet, but we will, after the SANESA qualifiers.
Every day I get more and more impressed by this pony – he’s really something special. Rather top-class if you ask me. It’s no surprise that he consistently achieves what we set out to do.
Stand for grooming and farrier. – Both check, both with ease. The farrier wasn’t perfect, but it’ll improve as she grows up. She LOVES the grooming.
Lead and tie up.Done, and better than most of the grownup horses. Clean slates rock.
Box well. – Still need to get to this.
Be good tobath. Done; she’s not Arwen, but you can bath her.
Be good to catch.Sometimes she still wanders off, but it doesn’t take longer than two minutes to catch the creature. If you have cookies, it’s effortless.
Show in-hand. I have my doubts about this one; mentally and physically she could do it and win, but she has grown a coat like a yak, and I’m not shaving it off for one showing class, so we’ll see how she looks by Spring Show.
In spring, lunge.
In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.
With this girl’s temperament, it’s no surprise that she’s right on track.
The next few horses didn’t have goals set for them at the beginning of the year, so there’s no time like the present, right?
Hack reliably in company. An apparently lofty goal considering he broke his child on a hack, but he’s been OK on little walk hacks in good company, so I think he can do it. He hasn’t dared to buck with me.
School Novice dressage. This has been a sticky point. We get really good connection… for a week, and then it’s gone. It was never introduced in his early training and his flatwork is taking a lot of remedial fixing. But if this chap wants to last, he’s going to have to work over his back and carry himself.
Jump 90cm graded. I am scared out of my socks, but I have to get Module 5 somehow and even if that’s in next year, we need to make a start and start climbing up the levels somehow.
This is my last year riding Lancey; I hand him over to Z-kid in December and I want him to be an absolute, ceaseless pleasure for her.
Reliably do long hacks alone, in company, and wherever without any drama his kid won’t laugh off. No kid wants a horse that won’t hack, right? He’s been very good on little hacks alone and in company, so we can do this.
Do a training show or two at Prelim dressage. Z-kid is in need of some classical training and Zorro certainly isn’t coming down the centreline anytime soon. Lancey is a bit of a baby when it comes to flatwork but Prelim is well within reach.
Consistently jump graded at 70cm, preferably clear. I’m not going to push this big muppet to jump higher. He’s still very much a baby in his own mind, but this much he can definitely do.
The aim is for Trooper to do the next SANESA season under a kid; the smaller and more clueless the kid, the better, because that’s what he’s here for. So with that in mind:
Do training showjumping shows, up to about 60cm. I’m producing this as a first pony, so he doesn’t need to jump any higher than that.
Do training dressage shows, up to Prelim. Doing jumping and dressage sets him up for pretty much all the SANESA disciplines.
Be as safe as a house on hacks, mostly in company. I don’t think this is going to be awfully hard, although he might be a little nappy at first.
Be as safe as a house on the ground. Pretty much there, we just need to go over boxing again.
Be fully quiet at shows. I want him so that a three-year-old could lead him around!
Of course, none of the horses, nor the yard belong to me, so my plans are small and secondary. I lay it all down for my King Jesus.
I do realise that it’s well past the first quarter of the year and a goal recap is in order. It’s in the pipeline.
First, exciting news: our neighbours had a dusting of frost over their vlei (marshland, to our foreign readers) this morning. Frost means dead bugs, which means the end of bug-borne diseases for the season, so it was a most welcome sight. And only four weeks after the mist on the river: that old farmer hasn’t been wrong before and he’s not wrong this time.
This week has been blessedly routine as we plod along towards SANESA Q2, for which all the horses and riders are more than ready. I expect great things this qualifier – like determination, guts, drive, grace and patience – from my riders. I’m riding Midas in dressage and jumping again and he’s feeling great. He’s figured out how to jump a one-stride and I don’t expect any trouble.
Magic has the sniffles. I can sympathise; so do I. Neither of us have anything more than a cough and a bit of snots, so I’m letting us get over it ourselves. Magic’s the only one that gets time off, though. Hard life, being a pet.
Exavior had a lot of time off lately and it shows. He fools around in his field a lot and keeps biting Magic’s butt, a sure sign of boredom. To his credit, when I finally lunged him, he was super well behaved and didn’t show any homicidal tendencies. Always a plus.
I’m hoping that Sunè has found her child. This little boy, who isn’t my favourite but only because good teachers don’t have favourites, is a busy little daredevil but his lessons on her are considerably less heart-failure-inducing and she seems to rather like him. This pony was born to be a first pony.
Ash is super. She escaped from her tiny paddock yesterday, but only went as far as the nearest patch of grass, whence I retrieved her two minutes later. She loves her hand-walking and will be doing 30 minutes by the end of next week. I think after that we’ll trot her up gently and see if she’s going sound.
Destiny continues to attempt rising through the ranks in his group and continues to be thwarted by Starlight. Needless to say, he hasn’t done much this week except get lectured about picking on the boss mare.
Faithy is almost a complete equine good citizen. She just needs to get in the box and trot up without squishing me. We do lots of carrot stretches and those funny Masterson Method wiggles, but apart from that I basically just brush her and try stuff on so that I can take cute pictures of her.
I’m sharing Midas with Vastrap’s kid to give the little brat some miles under a rider more suited to his height. He carries me with ease but I do feel sorry for him with my ankles waving around under his tummy. This has been a huge success; Midas is as quiet and reliable as the day is long and the kiddo rides him beautifully.
Arwen and I continue to chip away at the Elementary work. Our canter is improving; the more we work those simple changes the more I figure out how to really get her collected and “jumping” and to carry my own weight. The lateral work is a bit of a sticky point because I don’t know what it’s meant to feel like and can’t see what we’re doing wrong, so we’re kinda waiting on dressage coach S to come and save us from that one.
I’ll wrap this up with a blast from the past that cropped up in my Facebook memories. This hails from a time when I was way too cool for shoulder-hip-heel alignment, breeches, or collared shirts.
Guess who? Do we know any other ginger giants?
Yep, this is Cointreau d’Or – Exavior’s momma, probably when she was still in early pregnancy with him. How cute is it that she has a really short sock on the same foreleg as Lady Erin does?
She was very cool to ride and these photos have made me really want to put my butt back on Xave, too. All in God time.
Last week was our first Boot Camp. As the title suggests, this was no standard pony camp and was basically designed to inflict torture and misery upon the teenage soul.
Jokes aside, it was pretty tough. The girls were pooped and, to be honest, I was also pretty tuckered out by the end of it.
We kicked off on Monday with cross-country lessons at Winstead with coach K: Zorro and Z-kid, Pennie and her kid, Renè and working student K, Sunè and working student E, and Jamaica with me. Of the whole lot, only Pennie and Renè deigned to go in the water, but apart from that the ponies were all fantastic.
Jamaica started out spooky for reasons known only to himself (“That’s Appaloosas” said coach K with resignation) and thus threw in a stop at the first little log and another stop at the dyke, but once he settled down he was back to his generous self and popped over everything, no questions asked. He flatly refused the water but drops, banks, skinnies, the dyke (eventually) and the scary trailer oxer thing were all quite OK.
Everything was 60-70cm, but it was fun and he learned something. Mission accomplished.
On the Tuesday and Thursday I basically kicked back and relaxed while the girls did everything. They even helped with the beginner lessons. I could get used to it.
Wednesday we all trooped off to the SA Lipizzaners: a whole gang of skinny, short, nervous girls with K towering over us. It takes people a few seconds to figure out which one is the coach. I’ll take it as a compliment while it lasts. We were having lunging lessons with the Lippy riders, a golden opportunity to ride a majestic white stallion and learn lots of stuff.
The girls were all a little starstruck, but all managed to learn plenty, not least myself. My coach immediately spotted my chair seat (ugh) and we set to work on that. My biggest takeaway from this lesson was that, like, half of all my riding problems stem from my left hip. It doesn’t wanna. It’s very stiff and takes ages to warm up. I should have suspected this (it aches in the evenings or when I ride in the cold) but it was a total lightbulb moment for me. Because the hip is stiff it doesn’t open up and allow my leg to relax back into alignment, hence the chair seat. And I know I always sit badly crooked to the right, which is probably because my body is protecting the sore left hip from being sat on.
This begs the question: why exactly at the age of 20 do I already have a joint that’s checking out on me? I can only think it comes from years of climbing determinedly onto huge horses from the ground. It was my party trick as a kid – I remember being able to get onto 16.2 and 16.3 hand horses when I was like 11. My right shoulder is similarly stiff and painful, which is consistent with that theory as I use my right arm to pull myself aboard. Lesson learned. Don’t mount from the ground, kids.
The highlight of the week was undoubtedly the daily Bible study. The girls really came openminded and I had composed these meticulous little notes, which got cast aside as the Holy Spirit took the controls and spoke. The girls had so much to contribute and it was just this incredible spiritual experience.
Where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is, in the midst of us.
It’s been a little hectic. I plead first burnout, then boot camp, then a much-needed and God-given holiday over Easter.
So this post (the third one in the whole of April – how sad) is about the week of the 3rd of April – two weeks ago.
First, I must share these amazing show photos from the training show. Fine Photography never disappoints.
Jamaica has proven his ability to jump quite happily while I cling to the neck strap in panic. We’re jumping 80cm at home on my bad days and 90cm on my good days and he’s still got plenty of scope to burn, as evidenced by his hauling my bum out of trouble on a regular basis. The unpleasant little brat is almost gone and is now showing his true nature as a really quite dependable, genuine and willing sort of guy.
Realising that my work here is mainly done, I felt I was quite robbing his owners by making them pay me to build my confidence on their horse. Hence, starting next month, Jamaica will be on half lease with me with the aim of jumping Module 5 on him. I think he has the scope and I feel brave on him and he’s very good at jumping even when I’m glued to the saddle in a state of non compos mentis, which is the only possible way I’ll be jumping a 1.00m course anytime soon.
In preparation for our cross-country schooling the next Monday, we also finally went on a hack again for the first time since he broke his child. No arms were broken at all, and he actually behaved quite perfectly, although we did just walk.
Lancelot had a fairly easy week, which I like to give him after a show because his little brain tends to fry very quickly. We did do the 10-steps exercise, which was so hard for his concentration span that I’m sure I saw a few wisps of smoke coming out of his ears. He tried very hard though. I think I need to get video of him under saddle because I think I’ve missed something. I’ve always thought his trot was his most correct gait but in this exercise he struggled the most with transitions out of the trot. I’m not too sure what he’s doing with his body.
Having finally sorted out the lunging issue with Trooper, I plopped myself on board without further ado. He has been ridden before and is surprisingly forward-going, for Trooper. We have walk/trot and a few steps of canter without a single hesitation or spook (I don’t think he knows what a spook even is).
As expected he can tend towards wanting to nap but the habit isn’t established so one or two flicks with my magic pink wand should sort him out quite briskly.
Magic and I actually jumped a bit this week, something we haven’t done seriously in ages, all the way up to 70cm. He was having a very good day so I wasn’t too surprised when he happily packed me over each fence with enjoyment and enthusiasm. Taking the pressure off has been so good for us.
Faithy had her feets done for the first time on Wednesday. She’s been good about having them cleaned and I played with holding them between my knees and on my lap like a farrier does, so she didn’t put up too much of a fight. She did drama queen a bit about having to hold them up for so long, apparently. She has lovely feet, as is to be expected of a Nooitie that’s never been messed with.
Apart from desperately needing a clip, it’s been going very well with Destiny. To be honest I would rather like this to be his last month in training with me, depending on his owner, of course. He still has that dishonest little spook but he has three gaits in balance and rhythm including simple trot changes and has been over a little fence or two. I’d like to get him thinking about connection and going on little hacks and then I think my work here is pretty much done. His owner handles him better than I do at this stage; he’s safe enough for her and she can handle his naughtiness, and they don’t have the personality clash that he and I do.
Of course, he might blow up in my face on his first hack and put an end to that idea while I try and fix that, but I doubt it.
Contrary to all appearances, Arwen has been working hard and doing endless dressage. We had a show on the Sunday, our first graded Elementary, and for the first time in a long time I was more excited than nervous. The judge at the last one was unbelievably constructive and helpful, not in that she was over-generous with the marking but just kind enough to say good things as well as bad things. I don’t know if judges know what a profound effect their attitude can have on the trajectory of a horse and rider’s career. Us dressage types already tend to be perfectionistic and hard on ourselves; grumpy judges rather compound the problem.
It really has nothing to do with the marks. It’s no blow to my confidence to get a 4 on a movement that I know we’re no good at, nor should it be. I just don’t like coming down centreline and feeling waves of disapproval radiating from the judge’s box.
Anyway, Arwen and I have done endless mountains of simple changes and they should be a little better now. It’s more about me getting worried about them and crumbling forward and hanging on the reins than her not being able to do them.
The show turned out to be disappointing for the dumbest reason. We had one grumpy judge and one super nice judge and neither were very impressed, giving us a 58 and a 59. Arwen was as sweet as pie and as obedient as I could have asked for, but as I came down the centerline I realised I couldn’t remember the test. I had learned it and my dad was calling it and I still managed to promptly get an error of course. Bleh.
Things kind of went downhill from there as I sort of sat there helplessly making mistakes, knowing full well what I was doing wrong and unable to persuade my floppy body to do anything about it. I felt I rather let Arwen down, not that she gives her left sock. Burnout is real, guys.
It was a bummer to put so much work into something and then get there on the day feeling so drained that it was kinda for nothing. Still, we tried hard and honoured God so that’s the main thing. We also got 2 grading points – 8 to go.
Thunder also went to the show and did his first Prelim. Apparently, despite being exhausted, I can ride Prelim in my sleep and he was a complete angel. He had the odd whinny and one little spook and a little tension but his good moments shone and both judges were suitably impressed. He was second in a class of nine with two scores in the 66’s. “Lovely horse with presence. Lovely walk. Active rhythm. Promising” gushed the grumpy judge.
“Promising” is something I do love to see on a test. He rides Prelim again this weekend under K and I can’t wait to see what he does.
Lady Erin is enjoying the life of the grown-up, independent weanling under the watchful eye of the old queen herself. Skye has practically adopted her and I think it’s good for the little lady to have a field companion that sets a good example (usually) and doesn’t leave the field, to settle her in this crucial time. Milady has also forgotten all about her offspring and is busying herself about restoring her battered body to shiny fatness.
Poor old Exavior has been badly neglected. The Mutterer came out to ride him once and he was pretty good, although he did start chopping and threatening to rear once, so there’s no way I’m going anywhere near his saddle just yet.
Midas has been working on his hacking, something he really enjoys. He didn’t spook at any cows this time, although to be fair none of them came charging over as they sometimes do, so it remains to be seen how he’ll handle that.
Finally (best for last) I must introduce our new arrival, who arrived on the Friday. First, let me explain that God and I have this arrangement where I keep thanking Him for all the yard’s horses and trying to politely explain that we really do have enough now. And then He’s like, “Look what I have for you!” and I’m like “srsly Lord how are we gonna feed it” and He’s like “Just trust Me, darling” and I’m like “OK”.
Enter Ashgar Riverdance.
Ash is a registered Connemara (thus very rare in our country) in her teens. She was jumping the graded 1.00m under her lovely owner at shows, 1.20 (pony A-grade) at home, when she blew a tendon. Then she blew it again and her owner had to decide that retirement was best for her. Apparently, a gorgeous super talented jumping Connemara broodmare is part of God’s plan for Morning Star Stables, so she fell right into our laps.
Ashy is the typical boss lady and a huge favourite, which is a good thing because she has to be walked for 25 minutes a day and the yard rats queue up for the honour.
Next up, recap of boot camp, then it’s back to your regular posts, ladies and gentlemen. Glory to the King.