Sunrise to Sunset

One perk of long hours and changing seasons is that I get to see the sky changing every morning and evening.

I suppose the sweeping expanse of colour should leave me feeling diminutive. Futile. A dirty, scrabbling little thing cowering on the face of a mighty universe. That’s all I am, after all. But here’s the beauty of the Gospel: the sunrise and sunset make me feel special. I almost blush watching it; it’s like a bunch of favourite flowers unexpectedly sent from my Lover.

I feel like He paints the sky for me. In a way I guess He does: the same way as Jesus died for me. For me in the most intensely personal way, and for all of us in the most magnificently all-embracing and equal way.

The space between this sunrise and sunset was pretty chock full. New junior groom L was kept on her toes, poor girl, but performed admirably. I got the day off to a good start by jumping a full course at 75cm on Jamaica, the easiest fence set to 80cm. I got off twice to check I’d actually set it to 80 because it felt small. Jamaica jumped brilliantly; I held him for a close spot and took the pole in the first attempt, but the second time he went clear and on the correct leads, if getting a couple of dodgy distances (my fault).

Arwen also schooled in the dressage for the first time. It was amazing. I really got to play around and try random stuff without worrying about hills or other horses, and we had a brilliant session. I was pleasantly surprised that she was easily able to complete a leg-yield down the log diagonal. We also did approximately three million simple walk changes. My canter-walk transitions aren’t any good at the best of times, but I struggled at first today until I started to use my brain for a change and squish her canter up to a super-collected little bounce before asking. I was so flabbergasted that she gave me a true, active collected canter, followed by a perfect canter-walk, that we called it a day immediately.

don’t let her fool you. She breaks out on a regular basis

Thunder was kind of an idiot today. He’s spooky and anxious in the new arena and went so far as to bolt a few steps until I caught him, so he’s being grounded from riding school work for at least a month while I sort him out. In his good moments he’s feeling super.

Sunè took a fairly new rider for a w/t/c and behaved brilliantly. I hopped on afterward and ran through our performance riding test for Saturday. She’s getting the leads better, but connection is still a bit of a sticking point.

Icey hates me for making him get up so early

Destiny is back to work after having had the snot kicked out of him by Starlight, and gave me a really super session including his first canter. Once I did get him to canter he went off so happily and freely forward that I panicked and thought my brakes had left, applying them sharply. He stopped so obediently he nearly catapulted me over his head. Apparently the delinquent can change his spots.

Eagle wore his first bridle, seeing that his lunging is now quite firmly established in three gaits, minus some anxious moments in walk.

Trooper is slowly improving. I get the impression he’s still kind of immature and needs a little time. I’ll give him another two weeks and see if he perks up about the whole work idea, but if not, I’ll just establish his lunging and give him a month to grow up and settle in some more. He is perfectly delighted to hang out with me – it’s the running about that he objects to.

We finished off with a slew of lessons. I’m particularly proud of Zorro and Z-kid -he’s come a long way from his trademark giraffe look.

and so shiny!

Liana also jumped a clear round at 50cm with her kid, a huge relief in light of her recent jumping trouble. I’ll school her tomorrow too, but she’s pretty ready for Saturday.

Long past sunset now – so bed. Glory to the King.

Fourways Training SJ

Going out at 5:00am to get horses ready for loading really isn’t so bad when God turns the whole sky into yet another masterpiece. ❤

Of course, we had a full horsebox for this show; that’s been our MO lately. Today it was a box full of geldings, about which I had my reservations. Having a sturdy old mare around does tend to make everything a little more low-key. To add to the difficulty, we didn’t even have dear gentle Vastrap. We had Zorro (whose behaviour can be hit-and-miss), Lancelot (second show ever), Thunder (never ridden in a box before), and Magic (need I say more?).

My fears, however, were unfounded. Zorro boxed the worst, and that just means I had to get to his shoulder and give him a whack with the end of the lead before he jumped in with alacrity. The others all marched straight in and Magic immediately started to pull at his haynet, always a good sign. In fact his mood looked excellent; despite our rocky week, I was feeling confident.

the road leading to our yard. Beautiful Africa ❤

Everyone travelled great and got out with their brains fully on, even Thunder, although he was quite wide-eyed. We were of course late (always) so I abandoned the Mutterer to babysit Zorro and Magic while we smacked tack onto (very, very grubby) Lancey and Thunder and head groom T and I headed down to the arena.
Lancelot proceeded to be brilliant for the whole show. He hacked along to the arena without drama, had one spooky first lap of the warmup, and then settled right down. We obviously had to stop and sniff the first cross before we could very carefully step over, but then he started to jump in a beautiful relaxed rhythm. At the gate, he waited on the buckle, occasionally stopping to graze.

Going in for the 40cm he had a big look at everything as we headed down to the start and then wiggled up to the first fence and stopped to gawk at it. I let him sniff and then applied whip and leg and he sort of semi-launched over and wiggled off to the second fence. This one was much better, and by the third one he’d figured out his job and went on to doddle happily over all of them. He didn’t even overjump. He cantered off from most of them but I held him down to trot for the approaches, except the combination, where he awkwardly added a stride and bailed us out.

Going in for the 50cm, he was much more workmanlike having been allowed to have a look. We approached the first fence in trot and he had a little wiggle but then took me right over and cantered off. I stayed light and just pointed him at the fences and encouraged him, letting him figure out rhythm and distances by himself. Of course he made a little mistake at one fence and forgot how many legs he had and took it down, but the rest was excellent. Forward and relaxed. I am very much chuffed with him.

Thunder and T started out both looking very wide-eyed; Thunny was shouting and practically piaffing with nervousness and T could feel she was sitting on a ticking time bomb. At which point I bellowed at her to ride him forward and she looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Nerve-wracking as it must have been, she chased him forward and found he was still rideable as long as she gave him something to do. He settled as the day went on and ended up looking relaxed and professional, toddling over the 60cm like an old hand without so much as an overjump. They had a pair of stops in the 40cm true to baby horse form, but the 60 was flawless except for getting a little lost and having to make a squiggle to get to the right fence which did get them four penalties. T rode him great, and I was so proud to see the giant baby in the show ring at last. (Show photos to follow, not that the budget really allows for any).

jump Thunny jump!

Magic was in a fabulous mood tand after my excellent rounds on Lancey, so was I; I came over to him certain that this was going to be a doddle, seeing how I’d only entered 50 and 60. I pulled up his girth, got a leg-up and plopped happily down the long side of the warmup. He was super, swinging along on a loose rein and looking around merrily, and then a big horse passed him at high speed. I felt his back muscles lock and started to talk and breathe him down but then a pony almost sideswiped him and he looked up and saw that the fairly small warmup was in total chaos. Everyone was obeying the rules but it was crowded and everyone seemed to be cantering. His neck went rock hard in front of me and I heard him take one big breath that seemed to get stuck in his throat with a little hiccup, and then he just left. He didn’t get mean, of course. But he couldn’t cope, either. It was a full-blown panic attack/Magic meltdown and even after I got off and led him around he was still blank-eyed and leaping wildly.
I think I could have talked him down given enough time and going into the empty arena nearby. But I looked over at T and Thunder and saw that Zorro and Z-kid were about to come in and I didn’t have time. Rather than try and hurry him, or talk him down while I was distracted, or focus on him and forget the students, I made the call to untack him and call it a day. As soon as the tack was off he gave a big sigh and came back as suddenly as he’d left. Food for thought… is it really the riding at shows that’s putting this much pressure on him? Or maybe just the overflowing warmup? I know this time it wasn’t me. Either way, the dude was quite happy to stand by the box eating hay and his stomach continued to be excellent, so all is good.

That left Zorro and Z-kid, whose saddle held up this time resulting in yet another win in the 70cm. These two are going to smoke them at SANESA this year. Zorro was jumping out of his skin but I think I slipped up and had them warming up much too early, not considering that he’s just had a long holiday over Christmastime. As he was warming up for his second class I could see he’d run out of puff, so the second class didn’t go quite so well. He wasn’t bad but he had an unlucky pole and then fluffed a turn heading towards the gate, necessitating a four-penalty circle to get back to the fence. Poor chap was so flat coming out I couldn’t be mad. He’ll do better by SANESA Q1, and I’ll be more careful not to warm them up for too long.

 We’re all pretty much geared for SANESA Q1, my only remaining worries being two outside horses that haven’t been in a box since September, but their kid has been working really hard and I think they’ll be just fine.
As for Magic, he didn’t deal that day. And that’s OK. I don’t always deal either, and we all know he can do no wrong in my eyes anyway, so we’ll just keep taking it one grateful day at a time.

Glory to the King.

Sunlands Training SJ

We arrived at Sunlands only moderately late, which was rather impressive given that the wheels had fallen off on the way there. Literally.

Okay, so it was only one wheel, and so there were still two very precarious wheelnuts holding it on, but it was the closest I would ever like to come, thank you very much. We limped the last ten kilometres, with the Mutterer and I both eyeballing the wobbling wheel in the rearview mirror, and made it on a wing and a prayer. Also literally.

Once there we unloaded the motley crew: Lancelot for his first outing at ground poles, Zorro and his kid (let’s call her Z-kid) for 60 and 70cm, working student K and her Nooitie mare Renè, and Magic. The latter was eye-poppingly nervous and spooking wildly at nothing, his adrenalin absolutely sky high and my heart correspondingly low. It looked like another disaster was imminent, but I had zero intention of clocking up yet another rider fall this year and had basically decided to just hack in the warmup until his brain came back.

Turns out God decided to use this for good, as usual. Instead of a disaster, my ride was an epiphany.

I have always been looking for the magic solution (no pun intended) to Mr. Quirkypants’s panic attacks. Always looking for a trigger or a quick fix or just some reliable way to talk him down off his ledge. Never finding it, I’ve always had to resort to just walking him and staying calm until he got calm. And on this day I stumbled across two facts that I am just stoked to finally know:

  1. Magic’s trigger is not a sight or sound, it’s a state of mind. Usually mine.
  2. Magic’s fix is not an exercise or a gadget… it’s a state of mind. Usually mine.

I breathed him down. I always try to settle myself before working on the horse, but when I got myself settled, he was miraculously settled! A rudimentary principle I suppose, but I have just never seen it so dramatically before.

So I got myself back and then he came back and we jumped all clear rounds for third in the 70cm. Here’s jump-off video! We even angled a fence!!

Zorro and Z-kid had a superb show. At his last one he had two eliminations and I was ready to wring his neck for him but I must apologise to him because he hasn’t run out, not once, since the chiro saw him and put about a gazillion bones back into alignment. Sorry Zorro. 

This show he was totally on his game despite last competing in April. They won the 60 and were well on their way to winning the 70 when during the jump-off one of the Z-kid’s stirrups came flying off. The stirrup bar was faulty and the whole thing just popped right off and klonked poor Zorro in the knees. They were halfway over the first element of a combination but Z-kid didn’t even wobble and rode the second element with one stirrup and great poise, to applause from the audience. They had to retire, but on the bright side I now have an awesome story to tell the kids when they don’t want to do no-stirrups.

In between all this I was also riding Lancelot in the ground poles. He boxed, travelled, waited and behaved like a superstar; I had like two and a half seconds to warm up in a teensy arena with a thousand tiny kids on schoolies, but he was right there with me. Nervous and sticky of course but listening. His first round was rather halting and wiggly, but he trotted the second one very happily with only one enormous steering glitch. For a spooky Arab, I’ll take it any day!

K and Renè had their first outing too but Renè is a Nooitie so she came out completely chilled and babysat Lancelot. They just pottered through their ground poles without turning a hair even though poor old Renè has jumped exactly one fence in her life and never been ridden at a show before.

Super happy with them all. To God the glory.