TOABH: Our Wildest Dreams

Hallelujah for blog hop hosts. I had thought of several awesome ideas, mostly about the horses’ dentist visit on Monday, but it’s late, I’m tired, and everyone had kind of a bad day (suffice it to say, it stinks when anyone gets hurt at work, and it happens so quickly). However, no lasting harm has been done, so without further ado, my response to the wonderful Beka’s latest blog hop:

Let’s pretend that financial restrictions don’t exist and logistics isn’t a nightmare.  If you could do anything with your Ponykins, what would you do?

Arwen. I’m at least the third person to say this, but drag hunting. Absolutely. I mean, what could be better than sprinting in a pack of speed-drunk horses, following a set of baying hounds, over solid obstacles? It’s not something I would easily do on any other horse, with the possible exception of everybody’s favourite pinto stallion, but on Arwen, it would be insanely fun. And she’d love it, too. And possibly kick everybody else, come to think of it, but it would still be a fantastic adventure. As a matter of fact, there is a Hunt led up in Kyalami, which is not very far; if we can find time and cash, it’s something we’re actually likely to try, preferably when Mom isn’t looking.

As an aside, I’d also love to breed her one day. If I could find myself a nice, tall, leggy stallion with high withers and a lot of pop, I think she could breed a pretty awesome little junior event horse. Or I’d go purist and put her to a Nooitgedachter stallion with a truly excellent head and good withers and breed a pure Nooitie show pony to die for.

Exavior. Since Mr. Spastic Giraffe is not yet showing the signs of being able to perform Valegro’s Grand Prix freestyle on the How To Train Your Dragon music someday (c’mon, a girl can dream), I’ll stick to my other favourite dream for him: teaching him to kneel down when I need to get on. He’s a hair under 14.3 now, but he’s going to be 16.3+, and I look like a dweeb trying to get on big horses (and have a passionate hatred of mounting blocks). Imagine pausing at the opening of the warmup ring, having him drop obediently to one knee, and mounting up. A vain little dream perhaps, but it does score on the coolness factor.

Magic. He’s a bit too old now, but I would have loved to put him in a free jumping competition for up-and-coming young sport horses. He has amazing technique – really, I’m not just being a proud horse mom, he jumps like a superstar – and absolutely loves it. I think he’d be able to relax, enjoy himself, show everyone what a stunning creature he really is, and probably kick some considerable butt while he was about it.

Skye. According to the dentist, Skye isn’t 16-18 years old, she’s 26. 26?! She didn’t get the memo. Anyway, seeing as long trail rides are kind of out for her in that case (she’s like 80 in horse years!), I would love for her retirement to be as a weanling mom. She would love it so much and be so happy bossing around and looking after the babies, and those young horses would grow up with a social security and authority that would impact their training for years and years to come. Every horse she’s been in a herd with has benefited from her strict but sympathetic leadership and it’s been reflected instantly in its interactions with humans.

Thunder. Two words: Cattle drive. He has the kind of personality that would love, and be lovable on, a week-long trip to herd cows. I mean, he’d get to be with people, cows, and horses all day – Thunder paradise. I would adore being in his saddle all day every day and sleeping out under the stars with my head pillowed on his saddle blanket and him grazing nearby. Of course, I doubt real cattle drives are quite as idyllic, but it’s an experience him and I would both absolutely love.

Their current favourite pastime: Cowpoking. Their stable shares a side with the exit of the milking parlour and these three hooligans stand here waiting for a cow to go by too slowly for their liking, upon which they poke it.
Their current favourite pastime: Cowpoking. Their shelter shares a side with the exit of the milking parlour and these hooligans stand here waiting for a cow to go by too slowly for their liking, upon which they poke it.

TOABH: Their Favourite Things

Beka at The Owls Approve asks: What is your horse’s absolute favorite thing?  Outside of riding!  Are there treats that instantly convert your pony into an addict or liniments that leave him yawning and chewing?  What does your horse just love to have?

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I do not consider my horses to be adorable. Well, not most of the time. Not always, anyway. They’re not pets, they’re partners. Well, apart from Thunder, and he made himself a pet.

Still, there’s few things cuter than a horse begging for what he likes best, so without further ado:

Arwen has a particular weakness for being sweet-talked. She is ordinarily a brisk, businesslike horse, so much so that her partnership with me can almost be described as “cold” from the point of view of an outsider, and responds well to a correspondingly brisk and businesslike voice, but if she doesn’t want to be caught or is being a jerk then I baby-talk her for all she’s worth and she melts into a puddle of mush. I accidentally taught her this behaviour by sweet-talking her repeatedly just before giving her a carrot, but now the sweet-talking itself appears to have grown on her. If you want to see Arwen make a total idiot of herself, just pitch your voice high and say, “Whosa pretty Narwie then? Are you a Narwie-warwie ponyfacey?” and she’ll do this:

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Magic LOVES to run. Of course, most sound horses do. It’s in their very DNA. But he has a passion for movement that I’ve never seen before. He’s already seven years old and by then most working horses settle for just the occasional run when called or when it rains, but Magic will run for no apparent reason; he’ll just kick up his heels and take off like a shot, not going anywhere in particular, just running for the sheer wonderful enjoyment of it. He varies the running with leaping into the air with all four feet at once like a goat, rearing, bucking, falling over (he doesn’t always keep good track of his legs), trotting with the kind of floating elevation a Lipizzaner would be jealous of, and stopping dead to throw up his head and tail and stare into the distance as if he hears the horizon call his name. Of course, he occasionally gives me minor heart attacks when he wipes out full-speed and slides across the wet grass neighing loudly and waving his legs around in an attempt to get back up, and he frequently has little scrapes on his silly pasterns from over-reaching, but who am I to stop him? It makes him so happy.

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This is his I’m-gonna-run-now face

Thunder is so in love with life that it’s surprising that I can pick out one thing he adores above all else, but really, it’s easy. Thun loves all living things. Horses, donkeys, dogs, geese, cows – he’ll run up to anything in an attempt to get it to play with him. But above all else, he loves humans of any shape, size or description. This can be very annoying when the vet is vaccinating horses and Thunder is following him around so close that his nose is almost bumping the vet’s back, going “Pick me! Pick me!” when the vet asks “Who’s next?” But most of the time, it’s pretty special to walk into the paddock and see those two little ears pricked up as he runs towards you. He is especially fond of the Mutterer’s two-year-old daughter, and the feeling is mutual; several times we have had to leap to the rescue as she toddles off almost under his feet. Once I was perched upon him when suddenly his head dropped down and when I peered down his neck the little girl had her arms around his nose and was hugging him and chanting “horsie”. And when the Mutterer plants her in the saddle in front of me and Thun and I take her for a spin, that big horse walks as carefully as if on eggshells, for all the world as if he’s entirely aware of his precious burden. Even when the precious burden flaps her legs and clicks her tongue loudly to him, he refrains from obeying her and sticks to a steady plod.

Photo from more than four years ago
Photo from more than four years ago

Skye’s favourite thing is obviously going on outrides, but apart from that, she loves foals with a fiercely protective passion, demonstrating this by lactating every single summer whether there are foals around or not. When she had Thunder, she never let another mare babysit him; she was always fussing over him, licking him, playing with him, following him around, calling to him. And when the other mares had foals, Skye was permanently babysitting them. Two mares grazing happy and alone at one end of the paddock, with Skye standing fiercely guard at the other end with two sleeping foals sprawled beside her, was an everyday sight. She has even adopted Exavior despite his being a yearling already, which he appreciates endlessly.

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Exavior, like most colts, likes all types of attention but despite being very touch-sensitive, he loves to be touched. It took me a while to figure this out because he’s very picky – don’t tickle him, finger-comb his mane, scratch his withers, or run your fingertips down his coat. But rub him firmly with a flat hand or scratch his forehead with your knuckles, and he groans with pleasure. His all-time favourite is simply for you to stand next to him with your shoulder or back touching him. Something about it just makes him calm and relaxed. He doesn’t lean – I don’t need to be leant on by a potentially 17hh monster – just stands there in contact with you and loves it. I’ve seen him do it with Skye, as well; he stands right next to her, shoulder to her flank, leaning his little head on her ribs. Even if I’m standing a foot or so away from him and talking to him he likes to come up, lower his head and lean his forehead on my chest. He doesn’t rub his head on me, he just wants to stand there like that. Which is frankly too cute for words, a gesture of trust. At first he would pull away if I moved, but now he lets me very gently run my hands up his ears. I think it’s safe to say that this is one of my favourite things, too.

Glory to the King.

TOABH: Shining Star

Beka from The Owls Approve asks: Let’s talk about the biggest achievements your horse has accomplished.  I’m not talking about you as a rider – I want to know what your ponykins has done to make you proud.  Is there a glorious satin collection, did he/she figure out some dressage movement that took months to learn, or are is it just a great day when your butt stays in the saddle?

Let’s go alphabetically, shall we?

Arwen has achieved so much and gone so far in the six years I’ve had her that I really have trouble choosing any particular moment of awesomeness. That’s pretty much Arwen; she very rarely is truly amazing, but is always pretty good, which has totalled up to a slow, gradual trickle of amazing in the end.

Possibly the most notable thing she achieved was conceiving at the age of 11 months, successfully producing a healthy filly foal around her second birthday. This oopsie was before I had her, but it is apparently against all the laws of nature and yet she did manage it somehow, little twerp.

More seriously, I think the hardest thing I ever asked Arwen to do was go out alone. She was very insecure, skittish and herdbound as a filly. While the term is probably somewhat archaic by now, she was the worst napper I’ve ever known; she’d be all right up until we left the big electric gate, and then she would stop. Attempts to make her walk on would result in terrified little spinny rears. The first quarter mile of every ride was engaged in walking two steps, rearing, walking another two steps, rearing again, reversing six steps, walking two steps, repeat. There was no malice in her, but for the life of her that little grey filly just could not go out alone.

It took a bit of guts from both of us, and a lot of time, but now Arwen loves hacking out by herself. I need a Kimberwick to get her to stop going, sometimes. Usually we mostly gallop on outrides, which are up to 10km long, but anytime I want I can drop the reins down to the buckle and go home at her trademark giant stretchy free walk. I can even put newbies on her for little slow hacks and not worry about them as long as they stay in the back where she won’t kick anybody. Hacking out alone is a very basic skill that most horses already know, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s been the biggest psychological hurdle that Arwen has overcome.

Magic is Arwen’s carbon opposite. He is either wonderful or abysmal; his wonderful is quite awe-inspiring and his abysmal is frankly scary. There have been days when not wanting to die is pretty good, and other days – last year when I was apparently unafraid of anything – when we jumped 1.20m without dying at all.

He’s also come quite a way in the past two years. Mostly, he’s transformed from neurotic race monster to happy pet, but at least we have made a little progress from racehorse to sport horse.

His biggest achievement was definitely his show in the end of November. We’d had a tough winter with massive confidence issues from us both. In fact, the whole of my time owning him has been pretty tough; the Mutterer will be able to tell you about lessons where I stood in the middle of the arena swallowing tears and telling him that I was not a good enough rider for this amazing horse. Luckily for me, the Mutterer managed to resist the temptation to walk away and would boot me back onto the horse and tell me to get over my [bleeped profanity] and ride, and between Magic and God and the Mutterer they got me to our first show where he was amazing, I rode to the best of my ability, and it went stupendously well. Magic was foot perfect and I relished the feeling of having one huge amount of horse between my knees, and all of his talent and spirit working in harmony with me. There’s just something about a really nice thoroughbred that can’t be beaten.

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Skye has achieved almost nothing in terms of being trained and so much in terms of training her little human. The fearless old charger has always been – and still is – my trusted destrier on the battlefield of life. Probably the hardest thing she ever did was to survive African horse sickness. Unheard of outside of Africa, over here AHS is feared as the recurrent killer that can cause a perfectly healthy horse to drop dead overnight. She caught a milder strain of the virus, but it was still a very dark autumn that we spent nursing and praying and crying and fighting our way through it. Skye never considered quitting, but it was then that I – fourteen years old, and that horse was my world – hit rock bottom and met my Rock: only the King could possibly have carried us through it, and carry us He did. And Skye fought the virus and won, now thriving almost four years later.

Thunder is just consistently pretty awesome, but I think the one moment of which I am most proud is when my cinch snapped loose on an outride and both saddle and dismayed rider crashed to the ground. Well, I’m not particularly proud of myself, because all I did was crawl out from my saddle groaning, but Baby Thun – who was going at a steady hand-gallop in the direction of his paddock – slammed on the brakes, spun around and returned for his slightly squashed rider. The poor little guy was barely three years old and he was so afraid that he was shaking where he stood, but for me it said everything about him that in that panicky moment he did what all horses do; he looked to his leader to keep him safe, and for him that leader was me. I mean, it wasn’t a particularly smart decision as all I was good for at that point was groaning, but it was Thunder’s loyalty all over.

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December’s 10 Questions

Thanks again to Viva Carlos!

1. What size horse do you like to ride? My happy zone is 14.1 to 15.2hh. Arwen at 14.3hh feels and looks pretty much perfect. I can ride 16.2hh but I look like a dweeb and it’s extremely hard work.

2. Do you school in tall boots or half chaps and paddock boots? Oh, for a pair of tall boots! No, I use what we in SA call ankle boots and gaiters.

3. What do you do with your ribbons after shows? Write the horse’s name and class on the back, then hang them up in the tack room/corner of my room serving as the tack room.

4. Do you ride/board at a large show barn or a small private barn? Home is about as private as it gets. Even the stables where the stud is are pretty quiet. I think I’m the only rider who competes.

5. Have you ever seen a horse give birth? Twice. I saw Arwen give birth to Dancer in 2010, and then a nasty little pony we had decided to pop out a colt foal in front of my bewildered eyes in six minutes flat, early in 2012.

6. What is your favourite breed? It’s a tie between Nooitgedachters (for their amazing trainability and tenacity) and thoroughbreds (for that indefinable class that belongs only to this crazy breed). I like how Trakehners look, but have never sat on one. Lipizzaners are also stunning.

7. Favourite tack brand? Anything that comes from England.

8. Would you ever buy used tack? Sure thing. It’s just hard to find. My beloved old Solo saddle was used (and is now used up).

9. Ever been on a carriage drive? It’s a small tragedy that I’ve never ridden in a horse cart, much less learned how to drive, unless you count those tricky moments in long-lining involving a panicky young horse, high speeds, and myself becoming an impromptu sled.

10. How often do you go to the tack store? Once a fortnight or so. My parents tend to keep me away from them as money magically disappears there.

October’s 10 Questions

Thanks again to Viva Carlos for a quick post idea after a long day!

  1. How many pairs of breeches/jods do you own? Three – a beige one for outings, a white one for shows, and a black one for work (yes, working at a coloured horse stud in black jods doesn’t always work out so well).
  2. How many horses have you ridden? Hmm… a bunch. Probably 10 different horses with my first trainer, six of my own, maybe 15 random horses the Mutterer put me on when I used to shadow him everywhere, 10-12 horses I trial rode for people or competed on once or twice, probably another 10 at horse camps, and somewhere between 20 and 30 for my clients. So somewhere between 60 and 70, maybe a little more if we’re allowing for random horses I don’t remember (sorry random horses).
  3. How many trainers have you had? Three, not counting once-offs with dressage or cross-country trainers.
  4. How many barns have you ridden at? Not counting show/clinic venues, only three.
  5. What is the name of the horse you consider yourself to have the greatest bond with? Skye’s the Limit – with Thunder a very close second
  6. What is your favourite show name you’ve ever encountered? For Joy, name of the amazing stallion standing at Callaho Stud. Special Effects – a piebald stallion – comes in a pretty close second. Somethingroyal (dam of Secreteriat) is up there too.
  7. What do you consider your greatest weakness or flaw in riding? Lack of patience and confidence
  8. What do you consider to be your greatest strength? Perseverance
  9. Have you ever leased a horse? Yes – my gorgeous grey drama queen (king?)
  10. What is the name of the first horse you rode? No idea; in my defence, I was two. The first horse I remember riding (and falling off of) was a little bay pony named Prinsie (“little prince”).

Skye2

HGBH: Magic Because He Is

Yay for blog hops! Seriously, I love them, and Hand Gallop has chosen a totally awesome subject for her first one. Kudos!

Hand Gallop writes: What’s the origin of your horse’s show name and barn name?

We’ll start with Skye, like we always do. Long, long ago when we bought Skye, I was still so little that I wanted to name her Mango because I liked mangoes and she was sweet and orange. (In retrospect that does kind of make sense, but the name definitely smacks of seven-year-old). My dad, sister and I were having a tremendous argument about it when my mom said, “We’ll give her the name you never got.” I was going to be called Skye until my parents tried saying “Skye Hyde” and gave up. It’s a pretty name, so Skye she became. Years later when I was registering horses I lengthened it into Skye’s the Limit because she always made me believe that we could do anything – that the sky’s the limit.

Skye8

Arwie’s breeder was a major Lord of the Rings fan, so it wasn’t much of a shock when she named the dainty little black filly Arwen. I think it really suits her. She’s sharply pretty, has a star on her forehead, and in the words of the Mutterer “she’s got ears big enough for any elf.” When I was trying to give her a show name, I only had to scroll down a list of the LotR Arwen’s full names when I saw Arwen Evenstar and it fit like a glove. The diamond on her forehead fulfills the name perfectly.

The worst part was at this one show where the announcer simply could not get her name right. I was thoroughly tired of being announced as riding “Erwin Ehvenstur” by the time we got a placing and the guy showed up to give us our rosette and complained about her name. The worst? He was English and had seen Lord of the Rings. Seriously, announcer dude?!

Arwen actually spent a large portion of her three-year-old year being called “Missy”. She was a little gawky plank of a horse and didn’t seem to quite live up to “Arwen” yet, so she became Miss A and eventually Missy. When she had her third foal, I quit on the idea of “Missy” and she became Arwen again.

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As for Baby Thun, I wanted to name him something related to his parents’ names: Skye and Achilles. I liked the sound of Thunder as a colt’s name and it worked with his mom’s name, and I was heavily into mythology at the time so Thunderbird came naturally to bring a mythical element in from his dad’s name. If he was a girl, he was going to be called Ladyhawke or Sonador. To be honest, I didn’t give filly names much thought. I wanted a colt, I prayed for a colt, and I believed so hard that it was going to be a colt that I don’t think it could have been otherwise. Poor Thunder’s greatest downfall is that I didn’t consider any Afrikaans people when I named him. The “th” sound doesn’t exist in Afrikaans, so he’s generally known as Funner.

Thunder2

Lastly, Magic. The poor dude raced as Gadsfly. He was only 15.1hh when he came off the track, so I can only imagine that he must have been a tiny black yearling that buzzed around like an annoying fly and was hence named Gadsfly. Poor guy, it’s no wonder he lost all his races, I also wouldn’t want to win under that name.

By the time I met him, everyone knew him as Magic, which seemed to suit him well so it stuck. I abandoned the Gadsfly idea when it came to registering him. I liked the “fly” part and I liked his stable name, so I plopped them together and came up with the ridiculously cheesy Magical Flight. I know it’s a pony name, but it suits him.

One day I actually asked his previous owner why she’d decided to call him Magic, and her reply was so spontaneous and so true that I doubt I will ever forget it. “Oh,” she said, “because he is.”

Agreed
Agreed

September’s 10 Questions from Viva Carlos

Wednesdays are supposed to be my chilled days, but somehow they always cook my brain. This time, thanks to L. from Viva Carlos, you guys don’t have to do another WW! Instead, you get another ten questions.

  1. Is there something you don’t like about your riding? Of course. My shoulder-hip-heel alignment is often a little off; I drop my inside shoulder on bends, causing the horse to do the same; I don’t always have full control over my hands in canter-trot transitions; I look down; I arch my back; I turn my pinkies out; my heels sometimes tuck up over a jump. None of these happen when I’m busy concentrating on them, but there’s always some detail that’s off. The day I stop learning to ride will be the day I quit.

Y U No - heels y u no stay down?

  1. Does your horse buck? Under saddle? Yes, all of them, from time to time. Skye, when she is feeling like it/fresh/mischievous/happy, tucks her head in and does a series of odd little leaps. (She can do handstands, but only when you’re seriously asking for it). Arwen bounds and kicks joyously during cross-country lessons or hillwork when she’s happy. Magic only bucks when he’s frustrated and only does it once, which is a very good thing because he has a tremendous buck. Thunder also probably thinks he bucks. It’s more like a little rippling bobble mid-canter when he’s annoyed with himself for not understanding something, and he looks so shocked afterwards that you just can’t be mad.
  2. Is your horse head shy? I wouldn’t call anyone head-shy, no. You can scratch their ears and do their bridle paths without problems. Arwen can be a dweeb about having her ears brushed, for reasons unknown, and Magic is a little jumpy about strangers moving their hands too quickly around his head. I strongly suspect that in his past, because of his exuberance, he dragged someone who was leading him one time too many and they took a whip to his face. He tends to lag back nervously when being led, which is totally out of character; normally he’s a forward kinda dude.
  3. Favorite barn chore to do? Hmm… probably grooming. They look so nice afterwards, especially in spring. Thunder also grooms me back with his lips, which is adorable.
  4. How many times do you ride a week? 6 days a week, somewhere between 30 and 35 sessions with 10-15 different horses. Although some of those sessions are lunging and groundwork, not riding.
  5. Who is your favorite pro rider? The Horse Mutterer; if he wasn’t, I wouldn’t be taking lessons from him. Also Kirsten Winn, my cross-country instructor. On the more well-known circuit, Charlotte Dujardin and William Fox-Pitt.
  6. If one pro rider could train you for one day who would it be? Dujardin. If I had that position and that subtlety with aids, I bet I could learn pretty much everything else.
  7. Favorite Facial Marking? A diamond-shaped star like Arwen’s, or a narrow, elegant blaze like Magic’s.
  8. Leg Markings or No Leg Markings? Four big white stockings, but only to match a blaze or perhaps a star. A star with no leg markings looks nice, too.
  9. Ever broken anything falling off? Nothing except my ego.
I stayed on here, actually
I stayed on here, actually

SFTSBH: Listening to Silence

Jenn at Stories from the Saddle asks: I want to know: Why do you do what you do? […] I want to know why you have chosen the particular discipline you have.

This would be a whole lot easier if I had actually chosen a discipline. The honest answer is that I’ll do any discipline if somebody would teach me how. I’ve already learned a little reining, some Western mounted games, showjumping, dressage, eventing, some showing and lots of hacking, but there’s still a woeful amount of disciplines I have never even tried: vaulting, polo, racing, cutting, equitation, tentpegging, endurance, polocrosse, horseball, driving, saddle seat, etc. My reasons for not choosing a discipline are simple: I don’t want to just compete, I want to be a horsewoman, and to me that means understanding the horse on every possible level, and striving for the perfect horse-human relationship; where both horse and person are happy and living life to their fullest. I believe this happens at its best when the horse is in the discipline best suited for its mind and body.

Given the choice (not always possible with a client horse), I apply more or less the same basic schooling ideas to the horses I work with, with the exception of teaching a Western horse to neck-rein early on. In the groundwork and schooling process I look for the horse’s strong points and work towards a discipline that utilises them to their best. An intelligent horse with flowing movement will generally start learning dressage; a courageous, scopey horse will start with jumping or eventing. Of course, knowing the breeding helps to work with a certain goal in mind from day one, but generally I try to go with whatever the horse enjoys most. It’s always a better idea to work with what God has so brilliantly created instead of against it.

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But if I am to be honest then I must admit that I love eventing for the simple reason that it’s extremely difficult to do well. Oh, all the disciplines are; but eventing is a very good test of the horse, the rider, and their relationship all-round. The event horse has to have good movement, conformation, intelligence, scope, speed, vast amounts of courage, a great work ethic and a willingness to try his best for his rider. The rider has to be able to sit like a royal personage in the dressage arena, guts it out across country and speed around the showjumping, not to mention having the tact to persuade an extremely lively and fit horse to behave himself. Together, the horse and rider both have to be trained to be precise, brave, fast, and quick-thinking. Added to this, the event horse is superbly fit. Of course, showjumping and dressage in their pure forms are far more specialised. But I believe the event horse cannot afford to have many of the weak spots in his training that the more specialised disciplines have. I know of advanced dressage horses who refuse to go out on a hack, and of higher-level showjumpers who have never been taught to carry themselves in the right way. Plus there is the cross-country!

I don’t mean to belittle any of the other disciplines because I love them all. They are all special in their own way; eventing just so happens to appeal to me the most, perhaps because I get bored so quickly, and an eventer has to have a tremendously varied work routine in order to be good at everything he has to be good at. Besides, I defy anyone to ride across country at a challenging height (for them) and not be scared enough to not be bored.

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10 Questions, with 4 Horses

Shamelessly adopting yet another prompt from Viva Carlos.

  1. Is your horse spooky or bombproof? Nobody is really bombproof, although Skye is not spooky in any sense of the word; she’s seldom frightened, and if she is, her general reaction is to either a) stand very still with her head as high as it can go and be tall and scary until it goes away, or b) charge the danger head-on. Thunder can be extremely spooky but he generally shies and then looks to see what it was. Arwen’s spookiness has largely vanished because when she’s in work mode nothing distracts her (except baboons). Magic’s not flighty, but spooks at anything white.
  2. Does your horse have a long or short stride? Arwen has a tiny little stride, which is cool for dressage (gives you more time to prepare for movements) but does make us both look like idiots in combinations built for big horses, since we either have to gallop through them or put in an extra stride and a long distance. Magic’s stride is average, Skye’s is quite short and Thunder has a very long loping Friesian-type stride, which he inherited from his dad.
  3. Describe your current barn in 3 words? Beautiful, open, home
  4. If you could switch barns, would you? Nope. I’ll upgrade mine as much as I can, but there’s nothing like keeping your horses in your backyard (even if your backyard is about 500 acres).
  5. Favourite brand of breeches? I dislike them all equally (sorry, breeches)
  6. How many blue ribbons do you have? (Red if you live in Canada or Britain) Hmm, I think my greyhound won three and my Border collie has one. The heifers and I have collected two or three over the years. Of the horses, not a whole lot. Skye got one at a gymkhana eons ago and Arwen has her dressage ribbon, but that’s it.
  7. How many saddle pads do you own? One for Magic’s saddle, one for Arwen’s saddle, the pretty Western one for Thunder and Skye, a really old scruffy one on the roller and another one for the McLellan training saddle. Four.
  8. Is your horse your phone background/lock screen? Yeah. Both.
  9. Do you go trail riding often? (weather permitting) Yes, especially if interval training outside counts. Arwen goes twice a week, Thunder twice, Magic once, and then I have one outride every week on a client horse. Oh, and Skye goes out three times a week because arena work, she says, is Boring.
  10. Favourite horsy movie? Secreteriat, but Dreamer comes really, really, really close.

    Gratuitous cuteness spam
    Gratuitous cuteness spam`

EAHBH: Confessions of a Pleb

So I was going to write this technical photo-heavy post about Magic’s free jumping, but then today just kinda happened. I got thrown head over heels on a hack during a bit of overexcitement in a canter, and my horse (not one of the Horde, a client horse) took off like a shot, leaving me behind like:

I know, I know, all the cat memes. But they’re so cute!

Luckily the farrier was on his way down the road and saw the riderless horse go past, so most sensibly drove the way she’d come and found a grumpy horse trainer making her way home on foot. The horse also had the good sense to run straight home to her paddock and not get hit by any cars, so it ended well, but left me tired and in too daft a mood for serious posting.

What I really felt like was writing a blog hop, and Hillary is now my hero for taking over the blog hop duties from L. So without further ado, my response to the first Equestrian at Hart Blog Hop.

I want to know about what you ride in and why? Show us your Equestrian Fashion choices and tell us why you wear them!

I am a horrible pleb when it comes to riding clothes. During my novice years, when a saddle was considered fancy frippery, I barely stooped to a bridle and riding helmet, and occasionally still do so (provided the horse is fat enough).

Later on, I started to figure out why professionals wear riding stuff (except obviously the Horse Mutterer): it’s there for a reason. I added riding boots to my gear since they didn’t slide around on the stirrups as much as gumboots did, and when I finally consented to use a saddle for multiple horses every day, I added half chaps as well. Shorts are all fine and well for Western saddles, but even jeans don’t give you enough protection from the stirrup leathers’ pinching and rubbing your legs against the saddle flap in English.

 

This winter was the first time I started to wear gloves for riding, not because the reins were hurting my hands much (I generally ride with leather reins), but to protect my knuckles from the dry air. They get truly horrible after a day at the stables and somehow the gloves trap moisture in my skin.

So now, my daily riding get-up, from the bottom up.

Feet. Boots depend on where I am, since I wear out a pair of boots in six months or so. At home, I wear non-riding Bronx boots, which are cheaper than riding boots but still have a heel. At work and shows, I ride in Trident paddock boots, which are a lot nicer, look prettier and match my gaiters (always a win).

Lower legs. While I would love to have proper long boots, I can’t justify spending that amount of money on something that wears out so quickly. Chaps are just hopeless (they’re lucky if they last 8 weeks), so I wear gaiters, of which I don’t know the brand (my bad). They need the zips replaced now and then, but they look good, feel great and don’t wear out. Mine are too short, though. Everything that was long enough in the shop was hopelessly too fat, so I went with thin enough, but too short. It’s a little annoying but does the job just fine.

Short but skinny enough
Short but skinny enough

Legs. This is where my inner peasant shows itself. I wear jodhpurs/breeches only for special occasions and spend the rest of my life in el cheapo jeans that are slightly too big. (Everything is, when you’re me). I do have a good reason for wearing jeans, though: they have pockets. I would die without pockets. Also, they’re cheap, easy to find, and last really well, and if they don’t fit you just put another hole in your belt. I am on the hunt for jodhs for work, though, because jeans really do look terribly scruffy. Just as soon as I find jodhs with pockets. Another disadvantage of jeans: When you’re 5′ 4″ and trying to get onto a 16.2hh stallion without a mounting block, ominous creaking sounds are emitted from the stitching around the groin area. It is at this point that I swallow my pride and ask for a leg-up.

Waist. I love my belt. It’s handmade and leather, and wide enough that it fills up your belt loops completely. In fact, I just love leather, period.

Show smartness
What passes for smartness at training shows

Torso. At home, I’m rocking the baggy T-shirt look. At work and shows, I am in love with my work uniform. The Ruach owner has impeccable taste and the cut of this collared shirt is amazing. One of the (few) disadvantages of being built like a toothpick and active enough to have an athletic figure is that nothing fits, ever, so that athletic figure is restricted to looking like a clothes hanger with everything just kind of draped around you.

Without being in the least immodest, my uniform is ever-so-slightly flattering. Plus, it’s super durable, never too hot, and has an awesome coat of arms/logo on it. Win.

Not baggy! That's new...
Not baggy! That’s new…

Hands. Gloves are worse than chaps. I used to just grab the cheapest pair of gloves I could find at the feed shop, but they lasted 6 weeks, tops. Now I have a pair of Horsetech leather gloves, which are fantastic. The leather is a little hot, but it’s worth it for the tight fit around the wrist and extra padding and protection around the thumb, forefinger, pinky and ring finger. (Middle fingers apparently have no use in horse riding. Well, it is sometimes quite tempting to flip them, but I try not to and you don’t need padding for that anyway).

Head. I fall too often to have an expensive helmet. I just buy cheap ones so that I can afford to replace them more often. This is about the fifth fall on my current one (I’ve been meaning to get a new one for the past four falls) so the hat hunt starts in earnest this weekend.

Until then, I’m just going to really, really hope that I stay on.