PBH: Just Keep Swimming

Alli over at Pony’tude made my day when she opened up her Equitation Evolution blog hop. I am kind of a sucker for progression posts. Ever look at pictures of you riding and thought you may as well withdraw from the next show and spend the rest of your life herding cows bareback where nobody can see? Well, it helps to look back and realise that as badly as you suck now, there was just so much more that sucked then. (Hopefully).

Unfortunately right now I only have photos from 2012 onwards (you should see the 2010 ones. gosh.) but there’s still a difference…

Jumping

Probably the second time Magic ever saw a jump, before I even started leasing him. This must have been early 2012.
Probably the second time Magic ever saw a jump, before I even started leasing him. This must have been early 2012.
August 2013. Poor old Magic. Look how grumpy his little face is. Who can blame him? At least I’m still on top.
Magic1
August 2015. For me the most remarkable difference is just in the way Magic is jumping. His knees, always good, are now at an unnecessary level of awesome. He’s also able to actually use his back, instead of just leaping awkwardly. And he looks happy and secure. 90% of this is simply because I’m releasing, not as much as I want to, and not quite as much as Magic needs, but already vastly better. Most interesting is that he looks more relaxed here than in the other pictures, but this is at a show and the others were taken in his home arena.
Hands fail
August 2013. Even stoic little Arwen looks pretty annoyed with my hanging onto her mouth. She’s also jumping with a flat back, but gamely tucking her knees up to make up for it.
August 2014. My first time jumping anything bigger than 50cm in the K&M and it's showing. Already I'm giving her some more space with my hands, but my lower leg is on a mission of its own.
August 2014. My first time jumping anything bigger than 50cm in the K&M and it’s showing. Already I’m giving her some more space with my hands, but my lower leg is on a mission of its own; as a result I’m balancing on my hands.
My favourite photo yet when it comes my jumping position. Arwen's getting plenty of room from my hands, but I'm not all the way up her neck. While I am a bit too far forward, I'm also balanced; my weight is in my lower leg (which is behaving itself for a change) and not on my hands. As a result Arwen is pretending to be a little warmblood and making a bascule.
My favourite photo yet when it comes my jumping position. Arwen’s getting plenty of room from my hands, but I’m not all the way up her neck. While I am a bit too far forward, I’m also balanced; my weight is in my lower leg (which is behaving itself for a change) and not on my hands. As a result Arwen is pretending to be a little warmblood and making a bascule.

Flatwork

May 2013. Yeah... moving on...
May 2013. Yeah… moving on…
May 2014, winning our first dressage show. We look better, but my toe and my eyes and my hands and my shoulders... And Arwen is quite far on her front end and quite heavy in the contact.
May 2014, winning our first dressage show. We look better, but my toe and my eyes and my hands and my shoulders… And Arwen is quite far on her front end and quite heavy in the contact.
June 2015. Not Arwen, but a far younger and less experienced horse also doing her first Prelim test. Much of the niceness here can be attributed to Nell simply being fairly amazing, but I'm at least looking up, my legs are kind of behaving and, while my arms look awkward here, it's actually a good thing; it's just the moment of the rise that makes them look stiff, because they're really being supple and keeping my hands as still as possible.
June 2015. Not Arwen, but a far younger and less experienced horse also doing her first Prelim test. Much of the niceness here can be attributed to Nell simply being fairly amazing, but I’m at least looking up, my legs are kind of behaving and, while my arms look awkward here, it’s actually a good thing; I’m at the top of my rise and my arms are straight, keeping my hands low and still.

Ultimately it goes to show that we should all just keep on swimming and take the little steps forward, because they do add up. Nobody is going to wake up one day and be able to ride. If I can improve my release by half an inch once a week, then in a year I can go from having no release at all to having a good one.

And we are all still learning, and will keep on learning for as long as we can find someone to heave our ageing bones into the saddle. Glory to the King.

ZBHBH: Everyday Fail

For me, this title can probably be changed to “Fail Every Day”, but I digress…

I failed to see a distance. Magic failed to see a height.
I failed to see a distance. Magic failed to see a height.
Never mind the solid oxer! Photographers are TERRIFYING
Never mind the solid oxer! Photographers are TERRIFYING
How not to dressage. (Proof that Arwen is a saint. Don't worry, we don't do this thing anymore).
How not to dressage. (Proof that Arwen is a saint. Don’t worry, we don’t do this thing anymore).
Mane eating. Third photo from this show that demonstrates epic failure, but really, this was the awesomest show ever.
Mane eating. Third photo from this show that demonstrates epic failure, but really, this was the awesomest show ever.
Down banks: Where horses go horizontally forwards and riders go horizontally backwards.
Down banks: Where horses go horizontally forwards and riders go horizontally backwards.
How not to calm down a panicking baby horse
How not to calm down a panicking baby horse
Poor Magic
Poor Magic
I realise I failed at remembering the halt at the start of Prelim 3. Reed fails to stretch in his stretchy trot.
I realise I failed at remembering the halt at the start of Prelim 3. Reed fails to stretch in his stretchy trot.
That time I paid lots of money and called in lots of favours for a lesson with an international dressage instructor and then we shied at baboons for an hour.
That time I paid lots of money and called in lots of favours for a lesson with an international dressage instructor and then we shied at baboons for an hour.
I don't even know
I don’t even know
Staying in the warmup arena: FAIL.
Staying in the warmup arena: FAIL.
HATE SNAFFLE. SNAFFLE EVIL.
HATE SNAFFLE. SNAFFLE EVIL.
Um...
Um…

I love this blog hop! This must be hands down the funniest one hosted… and it’s given me an idea that may just have to become Riding on Water’s first blog hop.

Praise God for the horses that keep the best of us humble.

SFTSBH: Heart Horse

Jen from Stories From The Saddle asks:

Do you currently have your “heart horse”? What makes a “heart horse” to you? If you don’t own a horse, have you ever leased a “heart horse”? 

I encounter so many horses, with up to 20-25 different ones to ride in a week, that I’ve learned two things: 1) All horses are amazing, 2) regardless, certain horses just click with certain people, irrespective of whether they are actually that person’s favourite colour/breed/age/level of training.

So for me a heart horse is literally that horse that makes your heart turn a cartwheel and stop in its tracks, that makes it beat slower and faster at the same time. For those of us who are a little besotted (i. e. me), a heart horse makes you hot and cold all over and yet when you’re in the saddle you feel like nothing is too hard for God and you and that horse. It’s a lot like falling in love with exactly the right person (I imagine, anyway), only without having to make coffee and remember birthdays and run the risk of them suddenly not being who you thought they were. Horses don’t lie.

To me a heart horse is simply, at its core, utterly compatible with me, no matter how wrong the size or level of training. For me obviously they’ll all share similar characteristics because I like certain things in a horse. They’ll all be generous, with a good eye, a good walk, tremendous loyalty, and a big heart.All of my own horses are heart horses for me, and I was just ridiculously blessed because I only ever picked out one of them. The rest just sort of fell in my lap, as perfect as they are. But you’ve all heard so much about them that today I’m going to describe three horses that are absolutely heart horses, which I don’t own and never will, but I’m quite happy to run the risk of heartbreak rather than keep these bright spirits at arm’s length.Double Reef was probably the first OTTB I ever rode and, unlikely as it seemed at the time, I loved him. He was 16.3 hands of dark bay moodiness who didn’t think twice about aiming me a kick or a bite, but once I was on him he carried me as proudly and as carefully as if I was made of fine china. Once a top racehorse, Reef was sold on after racing to an owner that severely neglected him. When I met him he was the most pathetic, skeletal sight I’d ever seen, and his perfect legs, enormous eye, and chiselled features only made it worse; he was the stern sad ruins of a castle, not a tumbledown shack. With care, the Mutterer nursed him back to his fiery dark finery and he went on to teach countless kids how to ride. He taught me leg-yields and everything I needed to know about thoroughbreds and ridiculously long takeoff distances. He never shed his characteristic grumpiness, but we used to trust him with our four-year-old Down’s syndrome student because Reefer would have broken his own legs rather than allow any harm to come to that little boy.Double Reef was grumpy enough but in his heart he loved his job and, above all, he loved to run. It was easy to see why he campaigned successfully until the age of seven. There was nothing he relished more than snapping out his endless legs to their full length and eating up the ground in gigantic strides that left me breathless and clinging to his torrent of dark mane. He had an enormous heart.Reef is now semi-retired and I haven’t ridden or even laid a hand on him for years, but he’s one of those horses I’ll never forget.Not long after Reef left my life, I met Reed, who was his carbon opposite on the outside but within he was very similar. Reed was a 14.1 pony stallion and may have been nothing to write home about if it wasn’t for his amazing temperament and his dazzling colour. He was the most golden palomino I’ve ever seen, dappling gloriously in summer, with an attractive little head. And I’m not a pinto fan, but his white patches just made him prettier. He was almost excessively polite and friendly and didn’t have a grumpy hair on his head. But he too was gentle, willing, and loved his work. He had a surprisingly long stride and stylish bascule for his size and conformation, and I trusted him with everything in me. Beginners could ride him, and frequently did. In the time when he was in regular training, he would have done anything for me. He even cleared 1.20m with me once, which he really shouldn’t have been capable of. If I’d had more time I could have helped him become an awesome child’s event pony.Reed was the first client horse to break my heart and I don’t think he’ll ever be the last. After a super summer of steady training, the influx of young horses his owner needed backing pushed him off my schedule a little and a few months ago he was eventually sold on to the other end of the country. He’s gone to a high-profile home, but I’ll always miss him.wpid-img_48255714538967.jpegSurprisingly enough, for all my fear of stallions, my third client heart horse is also a stallion. We call him the Storm Horse: a magnificent grey tempest of a horse, a Nooitgedachter stallion of the highest standard, standing nearly as tall as the top of my head and appearing four times bigger from his sheer overwhelming presence. When he walks in, you know about it. He has a commanding presence, a regal power about him that you can’t help but notice. And he wasn’t piece of cake to train: smart and tenacious as he is, as a colt he used all of his intelligence and resilience to resist everything the Mutterer wanted him to do. It took quite some time for him to decide to use his powers for good, but once he did and the stud could show him he raked in National Champion Nooitgedachter stallion in-hand and under saddle without apparent effort.
But somehow (and how the Mutterer predicted it, nobody knows) the big stallion just decided to give me his gentler side. He has a reputation for being dangerous, but he’s never attempted to hurt me. He moves around me with a half-awkward carefulness, akin to the way a big man holds a baby, and has never put a foot wrong with me on his back. That gentleness, the obvious joy he takes in his own power, and his faultless fidelity must be what attracts me so much to him, but one thing is obvious: the Storm Horse chose me for his human, and it doesn’t look like he’s going back on that choice.Thanks be to God, and glory to the King.

Unofficial Blog Hop: Instructors

Emma first brought my attention to the discussion of the various trainers – instructors, in the more British dialect we use in South Africa – we’ve chosen, and why we picked them and stick with them.

If you’ve been around Riding on Water for any amount of time you’ve undoubtedly become acquainted with the quirky but inimitable Horse Mutterer, my instructor of eight years – amounting to the vast majority of my riding career and not far from half my life. Geez, the Mutterer has been teaching me ever since he was just a pair of nostrils and a ponytail floating somewhere above my head. Although, come to think of it, that’s still a fairly accurate description of my view of him, minus the ponytail (to my mother’s unspeakable dismay).

My mom first recruited the poor unsuspecting young Mutterer – then only a few years older than I am now, but already boasting a total of over 700 horses he’d put under saddle and innumerable blue ribbons won in the showing arena – to teach my sister and I when I was ten years old in the spring of 2007. How exactly she stumbled upon him, I don’t remember. I was too little to care.

We then owned two horses that had been running around in the veld for several years; a goldenhearted old chestnut gelding by the name of Rivr, and Skye. Poor Mom had been dragging Skye and I around our little round pen (the remains of which my current ring is built from) for months and I was still refusing to suffer her to let go of Skye’s bridle. I also rode (for want of a better word) bareback, mainly because none of us had the foggiest idea of how you put on a saddle. The Mutterer arrived and promptly strapped his virtually indestructible trail saddle onto Skye’s back, plonked me unceremoniously upon it and sent us forth, sans lead rein. I was much more afraid of the Mutterer than I was of falling off, so I obeyed, clutching poor Skye, doing splits on his saddle (I was much too small for it then, and always will be) and, after a few minutes, enjoying myself hugely.

Whereupon the Mutterer summed up what has been basically my entire riding career to this point, with characteristic accuracy and economy of words: “She rides good, but she’s scared.”

In a matter of two years, buoyed by a tide of my unquenchable enthusiasm, under the Mutterer’s guidance I went from jumpy beginner to fearless kid who could, and would, ride anything with four legs and stay on top. It was four years after my first lesson with him that I landed my first paycheck – from one of his clients.

The Mutterer is about as atypical and yet exemplary a riding instructor as you can get. At shows people don’t spare a second glance for this tall, silent man leaning on the rails in jeans and sneakers while everybody else’s trainers are running around screaming “MORE LEG!” in their white breeches and long boots. Shouting has never suited either of us well; it makes me nervous, and it makes him hoarse, besides which the Mutterer seems to consider that once I’m in the show arena his job is done – it’s up to me then. He was also deeply disinterested in teaching me forward seat, rising trot without stirrups, or diagonals as a novice. Instead I learned how to warm up and cool off my horse by myself, how to mount without a girth (the one lesson where I came perilously close to finding a ladder and strangling him), how to work my horse equally on both sides, and what to do if she started bucking. Later on he would never teach me the aids for shoulder-in, travers, half-pass, or turn on the haunches. He taught me how a horse responds to pressure, and how to teach him to do so, and from that I’ve often believed that I could teach my horse basically anything.

Why do I stick with the Mutterer when I think I could learn more about seat and technique from a top competitive rider? For two main reasons; the first being that as a horseman, and in his understanding of the mind and body of the horse, I consider him utterly unsurpassed and have never had a reason to revise this theory. And secondly because the Mutterer and I just really get along. Over the years we’ve built a student-teacher relationship that blurs the line into friendship despite the gap of thirteen years between our ages. His oddball teaching methods are absolutely compatible with my even odder learning methods. A lot of students who would have been surprised by how far he could have taken them have quit after a few months of lessons because it’s just too hard. You need to half kill yourself trying before he considers you worthy of any form of encouragement. He doesn’t want you to ride for his praise, but because you cannot imagine not riding. For me, who rides for pretty much this reason, and to whom praise in the mouth of strangers always tastes of arsenic’s sickly tang, it works.

And I thank God that it does.

Arwen5

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

10 New Ways to Fall Off a Horse

Eighteen months ago, I wrote the original “10 Ways to Fall Off a Horse“, which proved to be ridiculously popular for the simple reason that pain is hilarious.

However, in the year and a half since writing that post, I have tried out several other methods of eating dust and hence the list needs an extension. So without further ado, 10 new ways to fall off a horse, with maximum pain, precision, and extra helpings of embarrassment.

1. Have trouble jumping a relatively small double with your favouritest pony stallion ever. Eventually the Horse Mutterer charges in and orders you to do it properly this time. Fumble the first element, plant hands on pony’s neck for balance, and fall off when pony stops. Bonus points if you land in the six inches of open space between the pony and the jump.

He's normally an angel
He’s normally an angel

2. When practicing Western mounted games, decide to give the keyhole a shot. Mess up several times before your horse suddenly gets the idea, slides to a halt, spins around and shoots off for the timeline. Unfortunately, you simply continue going in a straight line and plough into the dirt. Bonus points if the horse gallops over the timeline and then stops, looks around in puzzlement, and starts heading back towards you demanding why you departed.

3. Ride a young mare that’s just been backed. She’s not in the greatest mood, so when you ask her to halt, she rears. Be totally unprepared for this and slide off backwards, landing on your feet directly behind her bottom with the reins still in your hands. Bonus points if it takes the shocked Mutterer several minutes to catch up with events and ask, “Hey, are you okay?”

4. Get sick. Take antibiotics. Go to work. Have an allergic reaction to the aforementioned antibiotics and faint under your horse’s feet before you can even climb on. Bonus points  if the Mutterer, whilst scraping you off the floor, quips, “You’re getting seriously talented. You can fall off a horse without being on it in the first place.”

Yeah this is why I fall a lot...
Yeah this is why I fall a lot…

5. Ride a beautiful, smart, slightly absentminded four-year-old horse in front of his owner, his owner’s mom, his owner’s sister, and your instructor. Ask him to canter whilst going round a corner, forgetting to get his attention first. The horse obliges but his legs go in different directions, cross, and trip him up. He lands on his knees and you land on your face. Bonus points if you had an identical fall off the same horse two years ago.

6. Saddle up and get onto a gorgeous 16.2hh imported warmblood stallion while his owner and the Mutterer are watching. Ask him to walk on. Cling on for dear life as he proceeds to rear and spin around simultaneously multiple times; eventually fly off over his hip and eat dirt after the third rear. Bonus points if the Mutterer says, “Well done!” with no trace of sarcasm. (I’m still not sure what for).

7. Tell the owner that the mare is getting a bit on the pregnant side for riding. Heed the owner and ride her anyway with the owner watching. She says that she doesn’t feel like riding because she is pregnant. You ignore her and ask her to canter anyway. She says that she DOESN’T FEEL LIKE RIDING and removes you with just one buck. Bonus points if the owner doesn’t notice.

8. Your mom’s friend enjoys watching you ride, so she comes over to watch you working a horse that your mom wants to buy. He is a lovely, solid, gentlemanly guy and you trust him a little bit too much. Approach a jump too fast, cease concentrating, and shoot up his neck when he stops. Shocked by this monkey attacking his ears, he ducks out from under you. Faceplant on the jump. Bonus points if you bleed spectacularly. Extra bonus points to the horse if your mom buys him anyway.

This was worth it, though
This was worth it, though

9. Go on a hack with a young mare that was abused in her past, accompanying a fairly novice client on a quiet-natured stallion you love, and a fairly relaxed client on a Friesian. All goes well until you turn for home and they both let their horses run away with them. Your horse loses her mind, dumps you in the dirt and bolts off down the main road, expensive dressage saddle and valuable unborn foal in tow. Bonus points if the farrier comes to rescue you before you walk all the way home. More bonus points if you’re covered in dirt and soot and have to go to art class directly thereafter.

And the ultimate fall of all time:

10. Go to a Western mounted games clinic on a wonderful little mare (the first time you ever take a client’s horse to an outing). She goes absolutely wonderfully. The last item is your favourite – barrel racing. Unfortunately, there is only one arena being used both for the patterns and for warming up, divided by the timeline. Noticing that one of the riders has extremely limited control over his zoomy horse, you park in a corner of the arena while he takes his turn, figuring that if you stand still he’ll see you and hopefully avoid you. You are wrong. He comes blasting over the timeline at a ridiculous speed, sees you at the last second and yanks his horse’s head around. The horse cannot possibly see where he is going and smashes into you at a full gallop. Horses and riders tumble over each other and all end up lying on the ground. This fall has so many bonus points it’s hard to list them: The other rider runs away to catch his horse before you can hit him (a wise move). Once the Mutterer has retrieved your horse and failed to persuade you not to ride again, you remount, to applause from 100% of the spectators. The other guy remounts to perfect silence. The Mutterer manages not to kill the other guy but pointedly never takes you to games again.

RuachPromise1
I think this is the “you-may-not-barrel-race-you-have-whiplash” argument (possibly the only one the Mutterer has ever lost)

TOABH: Forever Homes

Beka from The Owls Approve asks:

Defining the Relationship

Let’s be realistic. What’s the plan with your pony? Is it a five-year investment with a return, is it until you move up beyond the Kin’s abilities, or is it forever?

I like to think I am not stupid about my horses. I like to think that I am a practical professional and that I view horses not as kids or dogs or machines but as horses, nothing more, nothing less. I do know that I don’t view selling your horse as a cardinal sin and that in many situations selling horses is a viable and non-abusive business. I like to think that I have a good working relationship with my horses with a minimum of coochy-coo and that I keep in mind that they are huge flight animals, not kittens.

That said, I’m pretty stupid about my horses.

Obviously, I take the very best care I can of all the horses on the place, no matter who owns them, but my own horses just have a whole other emotional dimension. With clients’ horses, I make good, logical decisions for the horse’s benefit and do my level best to make it happy. With my horses, I become a total sap. If a client horse hurts itself I inject it happily with NSAIDs. If my horse hurts itself I have to grit my teeth and force myself to inject the poor thing and even then I feel the needle go in just as if it was my neck that was getting stabbed. Perhaps it’s because I have to deal with so many horses whose fates and, sometimes, care I have absolutely no control over, but I am very sentimental and deeply attached to my own creatures. Client horses come and go – they get sold, they get taken off my list, they get taken home, whatever. Of course I love them, but I prevent myself from getting attached because I know it is highly likely that I will lose them.

All this to say that despite seeing client horses leave without emotional scarring, I am deeply and extraordinarily attached to all of my horses and likely to cry my eyeballs out if I ever found myself in a situation so dire that I had to sell one of them.

Arwen would make logical sense to sell because I have Magic to compete on and she would be quite valuable now, but that’s just never going to happen. She’s my partner and the one who’s got my back no matter the escapade; I think she may have my trust more fully than any other horse in the world, barring Skye. I’ll compete her up to EV80 or EV90 and once we’re bored of that maybe a little higher-level dressage, and in between some showing. When/if I’ve competed her at the highest level we can go and I have a riding school, I’ll probably let her pack my better students around some shows. Eventually, I want to breed her again; purebred Nooitgedachters (because she is so typey) and perhaps find a nice sharkfin-withered thoroughbred stallion to breed another trustworthy little event horse for myself. Whatever happens, Arwie is home to stay.

I was actually supposed to sell Exavior. I thought I could make some money out of him if he grew up sound, given his breeding and looks. And then I couldn’t stop thinking of him as mine and… yeah. I actually do have a valid reason to keep him, though. He’s big. Not that I actually need a big horse to cart my 100lb frame around, but I have confidence problems with big horses, which is not helped by the fact that the big horses I deal with are mostly stallions with aggression issues. If I could have a big horse that I raised myself, a gentle-hearted gelding that I had control over and could train at my own pace, it would do absolute wonders for my confidence. So Exavior is going to be my next youngster to bring on. I might still sell him if he proves to be too big for me to handle, which with the Mutterer on my side is unlikely, but we shall see. What discipline we shall compete in, nobody knows; he’s bred to jump but moves well enough for dressage. We’ll see what he likes and go with that.

Magic is not going anywhere. His shenanigans did make me wonder a few times whether I wanted to keep him or not, but I’ve always really known the answer; he’s my dream horse and he is mine forever. The current plan is for us to go up the grades in showjumping, since he most certainly has the scope to go quite far. I do dream of eventing him someday but I think he might just not be an event horse. He’s not very resilient at this point in time. Either way, showjumping is what I bought him to do and currently his passion, so up the grades we go and see what happens. He will never be a schoolie because I would hate to see newbies bouncing around on dear sensitive Magic (Arwen doesn’t give a rat’s bottom), so him and I shall compete until he is old and creaky, God willing.

Thunder well, who would ever sell a Thunder if they had one? Even if I was in the most dire straits I would never be able to put a price on him. I would give him to the Mutterer because they deserve each other. But Lord willing, I will never have to be parted from Baby Thun, and he can be my pleasure pony for his entire life. He’s to be my personal pleasure horse and do whatever we feel like doing, be it outrides or competing. When he is older he’ll also be a lovely school horse, so I’ll probably use him now and then for the more panicky sort of beginners that need a gentle, loving horse to hold their hand for a while.

Skye will also never go anywhere, ever. She has had an adventurous life already, and her home with me is where she will have all the adventures – I pray God there will be many – that remain. She’s being a happy, semi-retired hack right now, but should her old legs not be able to carry on hacking, she’ll be a weanling mommy and the companion that keeps Magic’s daft head out of the clouds. She reminds him to do things like drink water and go under the shelter when it rains.

There will, of course, be other horses that come and go at some point. I’m buying a broodmare, who I love but who will also be going once her foals have raised me enough money to buy a better one. I would also like to start training and selling ponies at some point. But these horses are mine and if the Lord wills it they will be mine until their last breaths. Of course, His plan prevails above all. But right now, that’s the way it seems to be going.

FMNMBH: Sweating Blood

Alyssa from Four Mares No Money asks: What has been the most fearful moment you have ever experienced with a horse?

Excellent question, and I have been pondering this subject all week and still can’t think of one specific incident. (My panic is more sort of drawn-out; it seems to like carrying on for months, albeit limited to a particular horse in a certain situation). There have been quite a few moments of absolute, dry-mouth, wet-pants kind of terror, those slow, cold moments when seconds crackle through frozen time and there’s ice in your very veins.

One of the worst ones was when Arwen gave my ex-boyfriend a rather nasty kick. I thought my heart had stopped; things got bloody. Luckily, there was no serious harm done, although he has a lifelong dent in his calf muscle to remember why dating a crazy horse chick wasn’t an awesome idea.

Then there was the time three or four years ago when I was still teaching and one of my students plopped off Skye. I had told him four thousand times not to pick his hands up going up a hill but what do I know? Of course, he picked his hands up and toppled off backwards; Skye trotted merrily off saying that she’d told him so and had no sympathy, and the poor child was totally winded and couldn’t move for several seconds. I thought I’d just killed my student. Luckily, once he got his breath back and I had screamed at him for a suitable period of time (just kidding) he was totally fine.

And who can forget the time Arwen threw Rain off and broke her collarbone? Yes, once my brave grey mare was a terrified two-year-old filly. Admittedly, we were riding in the dark, on a hack, bareback, with Arwen’s first foal at foot, and everyone was already on the freaked out side when the old dog ran under Arwen’s feet and she completely lost her mind. Poor little nine-year-old Rain landed straight on her collarbone and broke it. It mended flawlessly, except for a tiny bump in the bone that she likes to brag about, but it was still quite a panicky moment.

My own worst moments ever have usually involved stallions because I am terrible at them. Nothing like looking up at a pair of shod forefeet waving over your head. The time Achilles bucked me off onto my head was particularly nasty, but I think the rides after that – with the memory (or, rather, lack thereof) of the fall fresh in my mind – were much more frightening. Yet with the love of  the King, breath by breath, I’m working through it; for perfect love casts out fear.

Ah, and of course there was the time I was holding a Quarter Horse mare and the Mutterer was trimming her hooves. I know everyone loves Quarter Horses and they are sweet and docile and wonderful, but I have yet to find one that I truly get along with, possibly barring Chrome the little stallion. This mare was being somewhat cantankerous, which wasn’t a problem until she leapt backwards into another QH mare. The other mare kicked her, she leapt forward, I didn’t manage to stop her and she landed on the Mutterer’s foot, breaking it. Somehow it’s always so much worse when it’s an apparently invincible person that you look up to that gets hurt.

But I think the moment in which my heart sank the lowest in the shortest amount of time was one memorable incident a few months ago when two of my clients (one on a Friesian and one on Reed) and I went for a hack. I was riding a mare who has a bad past, but the two of us were getting along all right and I felt it was time to go for our first hack. I will admit to some trepidation when the client leading the outride decided to pick the route that led to an unfenced field near the main road, but figured that we’d just stick to a walk anyway and the mare had good brakes. Famous last words. We were just fine right up until we turned back. The Friesian broke into a trot; his rider, who had been struggling for months to get him more forward-going, delightedly let him trot faster and faster; my mare started to fret and I was just about to ask if we could walk when the Friesian suddenly realised that cantering was a thing and took off like a shot. Reed plunged joyously after him and my mare totally lost her mind. One moment we were trotting and the next all I could see was that familiar blur of mane, sky and ground that is the trademark of being bucked off. I redoubled my death grip on the reins and hit the burnt stubble shoulderblade first. I am ridiculously lucky in that I usually roll when I fall, but this time I only got halfway before the reins (which I was still clinging to) yanked me under the mare’s feet. I saw hooves come down in front of my face and decided to let go. When I got up, the Friesian and Reed were distant specks on the horizon, my mare was galloping across the tar road with her flapping stirrups making her wilder each minute, I was absolutely covered in soot and my day had just gotten a whole lot worse. As if the other two rapidly vanishing horses and riders weren’t enough, my mare was galloping down the main road with cars swishing heedlessly by, blind with panic. Seeing that catching the mare was going to be impossible on foot, I wandered after the other riders, trying to shout in a nonthreatening way so that they’d notice I was no longer with them.

By God’s grace, it all ended well. The mare finally got off the road and thundered along the verge all the way to her stable, miraculously not hurting herself or causing any accidents. The other two riders noticed my absence, managed to stop their horses and milled around in bewilderment wondering where my horse had vanished to. The farrier saw my mare gallop into the yard and (with commendable presence of mind) got in his car and charged off in the direction she’d come, so I didn’t have to walk quite all the way home. The Mutterer refrained from ripping my skin off for scaring him, although I think he was rather tempted, and made unhelpful comments about how terrible I looked while I tried to get the soot off myself.

The mare’s confidence has been entirely restored, as has mine, the soot washed out of my work shirt and I no longer ride with Friesians unless I have a quiet horse under me. But every time I head off towards the unfenced field, I am most helpfully reminded by everybody that the idea is not for my horse and I to come home individually.

Fly On Over Blog Hop: A Day in the Life

So, unlike most of us in bloggyland, I’m not an adult ammy. In fact, I’m not even an adult, at least not until February 24. But I suppose my days are quite interesting enough to blog about despite the conspicuous absence of commutes and offices, so here goes.

4:45am: Wake up.

4:46am: Wake up.

4:47am: Wake up. Try to stay awake this time by opening Bible Gateway and reading the verse of the day four times until it sinks in. Close eyes for a quiet moment of prayer asking the Lord what I should do today. Get wildly (albeit sleepily) excited and stagger out of bed. Bed is promptly usurped by Blizzard the dog. Attempt to become somewhat presentable, although why is unclear as the horses don’t care as long as I have food.

Blizzard1
This is not a morning person

5:30am: Go to feed the first group of horses (Arwen, Thunder, Flare and currently a cheeky Anglo-Arab filly). Attempt to get Blizzard to get out of bed; invariably fail. Groom Arwen. Yell at the filly for trying to fight with Arwen; yell at Flare for trying to fight with the filly. Cuddle Baby Thunder.

5:55am: Go get Blizzard, who has repented and is sitting by the garden gate looking remorseful. Go to feed the second group of horses (Skye, Exavior, Magic, Benji the donkey, and the Mutterer’s white gelding, bay mare and little colt foal). Groom Magic and Skye. Scream at Exavior for taking Magic’s fly mask off. Scream at Magic for taking Exavior’s fly mask off. Discuss the mysteries of the universe with Skye.

6:30am: Eat something, discuss cheese with the parents.

7:00am: Separate cream and/or work on halter training the show cows.

7:30am: Walk the dog pack with the li’l sis.

8:00am: Feed the dog pack. Eat again. (I have a fast metabolism, OK. Three meals a day doesn’t cut it). Read the Bible. Stare out of the window contemplating the greatness of God.

8:30am: Riding time!! Pile a bunch of stuff on the pickup, pile dogs on top of the stuff and drive to the arena. (Tack room is still in the blueprint stage). Ride Arwen while it’s still quite cool; hose her off, turn her out and sigh when she rolls.

9:15am: Ride Magic, hose him off, turn him out and run at him waving my arms and shouting so that he runs off to the pasture instead of rolling in the manure pile.

10:00am: Work with two or three of the following horses: Thunder, Skye, Exavior, the white gelding, the bay mare, or the cheeky filly.

Around 12:00pm: Time for clients. Hurry off to one of the studs, accompanied or chauffered by a responsible driver (in Africa you’re only allowed to drive when you’re 18. 11 days to go). Food also happens at some point.

12:30pm: Set to work on four or five out of the following: Potency (small smoky black pinto pony), Vicky (chestnut pinto filly that is nothing you would ever expect from a chestnut filly), Braveheart (slightly more typical chestnut filly), Sookie (everyone’s favourite German warmblood), Ryka (most beautiful stallion ever, plus gentlemanly), Elbie (smart chestnut filly), Heidi (gorgeous chestnut mare), Rodei (zippy little grey mare), Reed (cutest, most adorable palomino stallion ever), Wanika (well-moving chestnut pinto filly), Texas (slightly paranoid chestnut pinto mare), Special Effects (drop-dead stunning piebald Oldenburg). As you can see, I have a suidical amount of chestnut mares. Also follow the Mutterer around in my spare time in case he does something interesting/potentially educational.

Please buy him
Please buy him

4:00pm: Go home and study. Read my biology textbook with my mouth hanging open; the more I learn the more evident God’s amazing design becomes.

6:00pm: Supper time for the horses. This time Blizzard consents to come with me all the way, so it goes a bit faster without the fetching-the-doggy stop. Groom Thunder and Exavior. Spend far too much time playing with Exavior.

7:30pm: Food, family, write, read.

8:30pm: Find a couple of dogs to cuddle and go to bed.

TOABH: Buy all the Things!

Beka from The Owls Approve asks: Let’s continue pretending that horse poop magically transforms into money instead of the other way. So money doesn’t matter. If you could buy anything for your horse, what would you buy?

Assuming I’d already bought professional fitted, gorgeously snobbish British saddles for everybody, I think the thing they would enjoy most would be a better arena. They don’t much care what they wear as long as it doesn’t hurt them, and they’re already up to their eyeballs in grass, so the one thing that does seem to bother them is the arena.

Mine has served me extremely well, don’t get me wrong, and we’ve achieved a lot there that we couldn’t have if it didn’t exist. Whenever we do some work on it and render it temporarily unusable, I sorely miss it. But it is on a bit of a slope and it doesn’t have any footing – theoretically it’s grass, but I’ve worn so many different tracks in it, on so many different places, that most if it is just rock hard. This is unkind to their joints and makes life very hard when trying to teach a baby horse to canter round and round without falling on his nose. And something has dug a rather large hole right on the centreline (I presume it was Magic, who can get a bit overexcited when preparing a spot to roll in).

So I would build the most magnificent arena you had ever seen; 100m x 100m with one of those unbearably fancy surfaces that look like golden sand and are nice to fall on (always a plus). With one section of it marked out in a full-size dressage arena complete with judges’ box so that at least you’re prepared for it when they spook at C at shows. It should have a beautiful high roof on it, so high that it allows the breeze through in summer, and walls that can be pulled down kind of like garage doors in winter (I’m not restricting myself to the realms of possibility, okay?). And a huge selection of jumps of all colours and shapes, including a water tray and a liverpool and a wall…

Go big or go home, eh?

One like this would be fine too...
One like this would be fine too…