2018 Goals: Training Horses Q2

Champagne

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Despite my emotional craziness through this quarter, Champagne has made some good progress on the schooling front. Outings did not go as well, but now that my head is on more or less straight again, this will resume hopefully with better results.

Shows:

  • Early Feb: Pre-HOY – This was not a disaster, but it could have been better. She travelled great and hung out quite happily at the show itself, but the riding was very nervous and tense. However, she never grew violent and stayed obedient to my cues to the best of her ability.
  • Late Feb: HOY – Creature was lame so had to miss it.
  • Due to not being great at Pre-HOY, we decided not to take her to SANESA Q2. She did our home show in April, though, and was completely calm and relaxed, garnering plenty of compliments from the judge. (And 82%, but the judge was quite generous. I’d have guessed it at a mid 60s test).

General:

  • Improve on her habit of throwing her head and running forward when scared. – Done. She can still be a little inconsistent in the contact when nervous, but there’s no more fling of the head and scoot. When she does spook she spooks like a dead ordinary young horse, just a little jump and then carry on.
  • Improve the consistency of her connection, particularly through transitions. – Still imperfect, but vastly better. Walk/trot/walk/halt/walk transitions are fine and canter/trot are fine, but trot/canter can still be problematic.
  • Improve her trot-canter transitions to the point where I can get the lead almost all the time without bucking. – Done! She can still get affronted if I get after her about the promptness of the transition, but strikes off correctly and only bucks on very rare occasions now.

 

2018 Q2 goals:

  • Visit another place at least twice a month.
  • Jump up to 60-70cm full courses confidently and with quiet rhythm.
  • Continue improving on the quality of the connection, with the help of introducing a little shoulder-in.

 

Savanna

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Savanna has been going from strength to strength. We had a few big disagreements about rushing, but she has started to relax and even enjoy her work, getting lots of compliments from equitation judges.

2018 Q1 goals:

  • Confirm all the Prelim work, including the stretches, square halts, and the little lengthening. – Done. The lengthening needs polishing, but everything else is solid, even the stretches.
  • Continue working on gymnastics to improve her carefulness to the point where poles down happen once in a blue moon. Prepare to start schooling over 70-80cm fences in the second quarter. – Done. She only has a pole now if she rushes, and has even discovered a bascule. We are consistently jumping about 75cm now.
  • Jump at least two clear rounds at shows. – Done, two of those being at 70cm.

 

2018 Q2 goals:

  • Improve the softness of her connection so that her child can easily ride her nice and round once his hands are there.
  • Jump 80cm confidently, cleanly and in a rhythm at home, ready for showing over 80cm in the third quarter.
  • Start jumping little simple fences with her child quietly in a rhythm, once the child’s position gets to a point where I let him jump again.

 

Emmy

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Emmy has since left my program, but she’s going from strength to strength with K.

2018 Q1 Goals:

Finish preliminary schooling:

  • confirm a united and balanced canter, with transitions and circles – Done, and with connection and bend
  • hack alone and in company – Done and she is super, if occasionally a little exciteable in big groups
  • introduction to small fence – Jumping tracks of about 60cm

Introduce to shows:

  • go to a show and have a good experience. – Unfortunately we only managed for her to do the in house show with K, but she’ll go to her first proper show in May if all goes well.

 

Titan

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Despite being out of work for a whole month with his ugly overreach, Titan has been progressing well. Unfortunately it has become evident that his child has already practically outgrown him, so he may be on the market once his schooling is finished.

2018 Q1 Goals:

Finish backing:

  • introduce trot – Done
  • introduce canter – Done
  • introduce the big arena. – Done

Start preliminary schooling:

  • introduce the figures – Done
  • establish a united canter, including circles – Done
  • introduce small, simple fences – Done, he’s jumped a little track of crosses
  • hack alone and in company (he will be spooky; it doesn’t have to be perfect). – This we didn’t get to, but I hope to start this week.

 

2018 Q2 goals:

  • Hack alone and in company, even if it’s imperfect
  • Jump 60cm tracks
  • Introduce the ideas of connection and bend, to ride a Prelim test by the end of Q2
  • Go to a show once a month and have good experiences.

 

Ankia

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This is our latest arrival from Arop (breeder of half our favourite horses, including Nell, Liana and Faith). She is a cute rising five-year-old hony who will be on the market as soon as I finish her. Unfortunately she was quite sick right after arriving, first with biliary and then a wormy colic, so I haven’t done much on her yet, but now we’re ready to get back to work.

Ankia has been ridden, for a given value of ridden; there are plenty of holes in her groundwork (major holes, like picking up feet and lunging properly). So I will be restarting her from scratch. Hopefully we will finish her and be able to move her on to a riding school kid and put her on the market in the next quarter, although when I made that deal with the owner I was kind of expecting that she’d know the basics considering a trainer had been working with her.

2018 Q2 goals:

  • Become safe and easy on the ground in every way.
  • Lunge properly in all three gaits.
  • Introduce walk/trot/canter in the big arena.
  • Introduce gentle hacks.
  • Introduce a small fence.

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Love having the training program a little fuller again, and I should be picking up a new pony this week. Glory to the King.

Training Horses Update

Precious Emmy went from strength to strength in the past two months, so much so that her owner took her out of training in the end of February. We are still trying to find a new home for her, but for now K has taken her over, and her owner comes for a lesson whenever she can. I secretly hope to sell Emmy within the yard because she is such a gem, but she’ll go where God sends her.

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good Emmy jumping with her mom

That leaves me with the threesome – Savanna, Champagne and Titan. All three have been progressing steadily; Titan the fastest, of course, because he’s a starter and they are just so easy without baggage.

He has not been without his setbacks, though. He was just starting to cruise along nicely in mid-January, doing all his figures and trying out a few steps of canter, when he gave himself a very gory and melodramatic overreach.

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photo when injury was already about 4 weeks old and the giant flap of dying skin had been cut off. You don’t want to see the photos when it was new

This put him out of commission for a solid month. But he is a bright little button so when we brought him back into work, we got back on track quickly, and now he has walk/trot/canter in the dressage arena. He occasionally says he would like to buck through the trot-canter transition, which I blame on being an Arab. Maybe it’s just me, but every single Arab I’ve ever ridden has wanted to do that, and every single one has decided against it with some persuasion.

He’s a good chap actually, and typical of his breed; smart, sensitive, hardworking, and possessing both a cheeky streak and a sense of humour. He’s alert to his surroundings, which manifests as an honest and straightforward kind of spook, but also curious, which manifests as very quickly getting over a spook. In many ways, he reminds me strongly of Lancelot.

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Savanna has put on so much weight and muscle tone she’s nearly unrecognisable as the boring little brown horse that showed up here last winter. Her flatwork is pretty solid now, with all the Prelim work solidly installed. Her old running out habit has all but gone, and she jumped two 70cm rounds in March in a quiet rhythm with only a couple of poles down.

Unfortunately, the rhythm and relaxation just aren’t quite there yet. She still wants to run and pull, although usually not on the approach, but on the landing. I assume somebody used to get hidings if she jumped badly. All these nasty old issues keep rearing their ugly heads, but we’re squashing them one by one, and this will be a super horse once we’ve squashed them all.

With her child, I have scaled their jumping way back, because his nerves feed her nerves and then they both end up in a vicious cycle. I have to fix her first before we can work together to fix him. But on the flat, she has been everything she needs to be, even at shows. “Willing and obedient horse” was a comment I did not think I would ever see on this horse’s dressage tests.

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Champagne’s spooking, with me, is practically a thing of the past. If there is legitimate cause, she will still have a little spook, but I’ll say honestly that Thunder spooks more often than she does. At shows, it’s still a different matter. She’s controllable, but tense. So our main focus now is to get kids riding her and to get her to as many outings as we can.

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her condition is finally there, too

In our flatwork, as usual, I’m still working on getting her to use her body properly. Psychological and training issues turned into a whole vocabulary of evasive behaviours that we’re still slowly easing out. She no longer bolts wildly across the arena but you better believe if she doesn’t know what to do, that head is going into the sky. Showing her how good a long and low stretch feels was a massive breakthrough.

She has always been good at going “on the bit”, in terms of being soft in my hands, but it was always just a curl. I spent a lot of time teaching her to take the reins and actually connect to something, and then that became a long period of pulling and fighting my hand, but now we seem to finally be getting somewhere.

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losing back and withers and breaking at the third because child’s hands have gone on their own mission
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shortly after I yelled at aforementioned child about said hands; not truly through yet, but lifting somewhat
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how she generally works with me now: loin is lifting, base of the neck is lifting, hind end is starting to come through, and suddenly we have a topline

I’m planning to ship Champagne out to my next lesson with Coach J, to achieve both an outing for Champagne and Coach J seeing what Thunder is like when he goes somewhere with a girlfriend. Maybe Coach J will have some magical remedy. She’ll also do our in-house show in April and I plan to find a nice, quiet training show for Emmy, Faith, Champagne and Titan in the next month, so that’s what’s on the horizon for all of them.

Eagerly looking for another training horse, but loving these three in the meantime.

Glory to the King.

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2018 Goals: Training Horses Q1

I hope to pick up one or two more training horses in the next month or so, but for now, let’s look at the foursome that are booked in already. As the goal is to pass them on to their owners as quickly as possible, I’ll be setting quarterly instead of annual goals for them.

Champagne

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Pagney has taken time to get where she’s gotten, but we’ve still seen considerable progress. The first week we had her, it took three of us to lead her across the stableyard – in order to turn her out in the lunging ring, the only place that could hold her. Now, we’ve got our first trip off the property under our belts, as well as her first show. It was just our home show, but she only had one little spook and the judges thought she was rather sweet.

Having sorted the worst of the remedial issues, as well as getting all the physical things thoroughly checked out, we can hopefully move on to some proper schooling and showing now.

2018 Q1 goals:

Shows:

  • Early Feb: Pre-HOY – in-hand, show riding and show hack
  • Late Feb: HOY – in-hand, show riding and show hack. For both of these shows, my only goal is for her to have a good experience.
  • March: SANESA Q2, if, and only if, she coped well at HOY. At least dressage, probably prix caprilli and performance riding as well. If HOY was a bit dodgy, we’ll do a training show or something quiet.

General:

  • Improve on her habit of throwing her head and running forward when scared.
  • Improve the consistency of her connection, particularly through transitions.
  • Improve her trot-canter transitions to the point where I can get the lead almost all the time without bucking.

 

Savanna

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Savanna has also shown quite a lot of improvement, with most of the remedial work also out of the way. This year she will be competing in dressage with her child, but I really want to hand her over to him almost completely in the last quarter so that he can showjump her at 70cm in 2019. I’ll probably always recommend having this horse in half training to the clients, but my goal is to improve her to the point where it’s only necessary as a precautionary measure. Old habits die very hard and have a nasty habit of resurrecting.

2018 Q1 goals:

  • Confirm all the Prelim work, including the stretches, square halts, and the little lengthening.
  • Continue working on gymnastics to improve her carefulness to the point where poles down happen once in a blue moon. Prepare to start schooling over 70-80cm fences in the second quarter.
  • Jump at least two clear rounds at shows.

 

Emmy

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Emmy’s owner wants to put her on the market pretty soon, so if all goes according to plan she’ll sell during this quarter, but we’ll keep on schooling until that happens. She’s already giving me bits of canter and all the trot figures – including an obedient walk/trot test at our show, albeit with her nose happily in the sky and her spine bent like a banana – so we’re also going to look at her first show or two in February/March if the owner wants.

2018 Q1 Goals:

Finish preliminary schooling:

  • confirm a united and balanced canter, with transitions and circles
  • hack alone and in company
  • introduction to small fence

Introduce to shows:

  • go to a show and have a good experience.

 

Titan

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I’ll probably have Titan all year too, since his kid is pretty new and definitely not ready for a greenie, so he can only be handed over once he is really quiet and reliable in all situations. Still, we’ll take it one quarter at a time, with an eye on the eventual goal of the kid doing SANESA 2019 on him.

2018 Q1 Goals:

Finish backing:

  • introduce trot
  • introduce canter
  • introduce the big arena.

Start preliminary schooling:

  • introduce the figures
  • establish a united canter, including circles
  • introduce small, simple fences
  • hack alone and in company (he will be spooky; it doesn’t have to be perfect).

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I can’t wait to see my babies blossom into the horses their kids will love. Glory to the King.

 

 

Training Horses Update

The five horsies in training have been ticking over quite nicely.

In fact, for some of them, that’s probably an understatement. Emmy went from accepting tack to going on the lines quickly. During her first session on the long lines I thought she might be going to kill me since she spent quite a lot of time head flipping, running back and threatening to rear. In the next session, though, I saw sense and swapped my favourite backing bit for the thinnest little French link I have and the problem was mostly solved. Most babies like the fat single joint full cheek, but thoroughbreds and their small mouths would have to be different.

She still head-flipped a tiny bit, but I suspect that her teeth want to be seen to, and they will when my dentist comes again. So it wasn’t long before I was sitting on her,

why can’t my leg always be like this?

and then riding around. She had been ridden on the track about seven years ago, so as expected she didn’t mind me being up there, but she had kind of forgotten what aids were, so it took a little while to get her confident and relaxed in walk. But soon we progressed to the big arena in walk and trot.

She does like to fall in quite dramatically on the right rein. I strongly suspect an issue with a left tooth, so I don’t make too much of a scene about it, but it’s already much improved compared to this photo from her first ride. Even the head-flipping is much better, probably because I ride my babies on little or no contact and she’s starting to trust my hand not to hurt whatever it is that’s hurting in there. I won’t be putting this on the bit until we’ve sorted it out.

For now we’re walking and trotting figures in the dressage and had three or four steps of canter in our last session, so I’m pretty happy.

Champagne has been drawing shapes in the sand – even on the spooky end, which seems to be no longer spooky. We had to avoid it the other day because our oldest cow, Fiona, was lying right next to the arena fence, chewing cud and swishing her tail and making little Fiona noises, and Champagne just didn’t deal that day. Otherwise, she pretty much goes like a normal young horse now.

She is doing our in-house show next Saturday, so we’re putting some work into really schooling her now that the worst of the remedial stuff is out of the way. Her bend now matches left and right and since her teeth were done she’s a lot better about taking my left rein, so connection is better too. She struggles with all canter transitions, though, particularly right. She doesn’t buck through them anymore unless she’s very fresh, but on the right she struggles to get the lead, and the first few canter steps are generally rushing, tense and hollow. This has improved as her bend improved, and we were able to try a few changes through trot, but I don’t expect them to be great at the show.

I don’t really know what to expect from the show. I think she may be quite spooky of the new things next to the arena, like the judge’s gazebo, but I think as long as I stay calm we can work through it. Since it’s my show I can also show her the spooky things before having to ride her and schedule her time for when it’s quietest, so that’s rather a plus.

Titan also finally got over his nerves with the saddle and graduated to the long lines. Like most unspoilt youngsters, he handled these with aplomb and quickly learned all the aids, including halt from any gait. I don’t get clean halts from canter, obviously, but for me it’s just about knowing that whoa means whoa forever and always.

Somewhere between accepting the saddle and long lining, he also finally relaxed about – well, everything. One day he came into work and he was just totally chill and pleasant to be around, like he’d grown up overnight. He stood loose in the stable to tack up, he walked into the wash bay like an old hand, and he stood quietly when I had my first little sit on him. This has since become the norm, and it makes everything much more pleasant for both of us.

Yesterday we did the ride-from-the-ground exercise, and while he had a few moments of tension at first, he cottoned on very fast. Intelligent, willing horses are so easy when they quit panicking. So I hopped on and we did a few steps of rein back and a few steps forward. He was totally relaxed by the whole idea and much more concerned with staring at other horses in the field than with me on his back.

Antwone has been super. Three natural gaits made lunging fairly simple. He is very fresh since he only works once a week when I see him, but once we’ve gotten over the first five minutes of mad running, it didn’t take long to get the voice commands installed. He had one more colt moment where he thought maybe turning his bum on me would be a good idea and was very rapidly convinced otherwise.

So yesterday we moved on to the bridle. He was a bit of a pain to get it on, first because as colts do he was chewing the straps, and then because he put his nose in the air and with that fat little Friesian neck there was no way I was making it come down – highly embarrassing at somebody else’s yard – but once it went on he accepted it pretty quickly. He’s good to lunge in three gaits now (except he can’t really canter left in their smaller ring yet, but it’s like 8-10m so I don’t expect him to) so hopefully his people can put in some lunging and make all our lives easier.

no pictures of Savanna, sorry girl

Savanna has been back on track again. She was getting very much against my hand, both in the contact for connection and when I ask for whoa. Now I know technically I should school her to be more off my seat, but let’s be real. It’s a kid horse, it needs to stop when you pull the reins, the first time, every time. So I employed a pulley rein every time she wanted to rush or ignore my light whoa; if this was right before or over a fence then so be it. She can’t run at fences with her kid. This worked well, and yesterday she and her kid cantered quiet circles over a fairly big fence (for them) without any mad running at all.

For the pulling I was getting in response to asking for connection, I used a trick I learned from Coach K and held the numnah with my outside hand alongside the rein. This anchored my hand in place, so stopping me from pulling back, but also making it harder for her to pull forward. It kills the forearms but by the end she decided that not pulling was just a much easier option.

some of the happy group: Sunè, Renè, Lullaby, Midas, Nugget, Trooper and Titan

We also have grazing for some of the horses at last, which makes my heart very happy. If we’re honest, it’s mostly (non-harmful) weeds, but they’re ponies, they like weeds. Lulu and Trooper have already visibly gained weight after a week in the grazing. Thanks to the abundant provision of rain, a gift straight from the Hand of God.

Glory to the King.

Training Horses Update

The four horsies in training have been ticking over quite nicely.

In fact, for some of them, that’s probably an understatement. Emmy went from accepting tack to going on the lines quickly. During her first session on the long lines I thought she might be going to kill me since she spent quite a lot of time head flipping, running back and threatening to rear. In the next session, though, I saw sense and swapped my favourite backing bit for the thinnest little French link I have and the problem was mostly solved. Most babies like the fat single joint full cheek, but thoroughbreds and their small mouths would have to be different.

She still head-flipped a tiny bit, but I suspect that her teeth want to be seen to, and they will when my dentist comes again. So it wasn’t long before I was sitting on her,

why can’t my leg always be like this?

and then riding around. She had been ridden on the track about seven years ago, so as expected she didn’t mind me being up there, but she had kind of forgotten what aids were, so it took a little while to get her confident and relaxed in walk. But soon we progressed to the big arena in walk and trot.

She does like to fall in quite dramatically on the right rein. I strongly suspect an issue with a left tooth, so I don’t make too much of a scene about it, but it’s already much improved compared to this photo from her first ride. Even the head-flipping is much better, probably because I ride my babies on little or no contact and she’s starting to trust my hand not to hurt whatever it is that’s hurting in there. I won’t be putting this on the bit until we’ve sorted it out.

For now we’re walking and trotting figures in the dressage and had three or four steps of canter in our last session, so I’m pretty happy.

Champagne has been drawing shapes in the sand – even on the spooky end, which seems to be no longer spooky. We had to avoid it the other day because our oldest cow, Fiona, was lying right next to the arena fence, chewing cud and swishing her tail and making little Fiona noises, and Champagne just didn’t deal that day. Otherwise, she pretty much goes like a normal young horse now.

She is doing our in-house show next Saturday, so we’re putting some work into really schooling her now that the worst of the remedial stuff is out of the way. Her bend now matches left and right and since her teeth were done she’s a lot better about taking my left rein, so connection is better too. She struggles with all canter transitions, though, particularly right. She doesn’t buck through them anymore unless she’s very fresh, but on the right she struggles to get the lead, and the first few canter steps are generally rushing, tense and hollow. This has improved as her bend improved, and we were able to try a few changes through trot, but I don’t expect them to be great at the show.

I don’t really know what to expect from the show. I think she may be quite spooky of the new things next to the arena, like the judge’s gazebo, but I think as long as I stay calm we can work through it. Since it’s my show I can also show her the spooky things before having to ride her and schedule her time for when it’s quietest, so that’s rather a plus.

Titan also finally got over his nerves with the saddle and graduated to the long lines. Like most unspoilt youngsters, he handled these with aplomb and quickly learned all the aids, including halt from any gait. I don’t get clean halts from canter, obviously, but for me it’s just about knowing that whoa means whoa forever and always.

Somewhere between accepting the saddle and long lining, he also finally relaxed about – well, everything. One day he came into work and he was just totally chill and pleasant to be around, like he’d grown up overnight. He stood loose in the stable to tack up, he walked into the wash bay like an old hand, and he stood quietly when I had my first little sit on him. This has since become the norm, and it makes everything much more pleasant for both of us.

Yesterday we did the ride-from-the-ground exercise, and while he had a few moments of tension at first, he cottoned on very fast. Intelligent, willing horses are so easy when they quit panicking. So I hopped on and we did a few steps of rein back and a few steps forward. He was totally relaxed by the whole idea and much more concerned with staring at other horses in the field than with me on his back.

Antwone has been super. Three natural gaits made lunging fairly simple. He is very fresh since he only works once a week when I see him, but once we’ve gotten over the first five minutes of mad running, it didn’t take long to get the voice commands installed. He had one more colt moment where he thought maybe turning his bum on me would be a good idea and was very rapidly convinced otherwise.

So yesterday we moved on to the bridle. He was a bit of a pain to get it on, first because as colts do he was chewing the straps, and then because he put his nose in the air and with that fat little Friesian neck there was no way I was making it come down – highly embarrassing at somebody else’s yard – but once it went on he accepted it pretty quickly. He’s good to lunge in three gaits now (except he can’t really canter left in their smaller ring yet, but it’s like 8-10m so I don’t expect him to) so hopefully his people can put in some lunging and make all our lives easier.

no pictures of Savanna, sorry girl

Savanna has been back on track again. She was getting very much against my hand, both in the contact for connection and when I ask for whoa. Now I know technically I should school her to be more off my seat, but let’s be real. It’s a kid horse, it needs to stop when you pull the reins, the first time, every time. So I employed a pulley rein every time she wanted to rush or ignore my light whoa; if this was right before or over a fence then so be it. She can’t run at fences with her kid. This worked well, and yesterday she and her kid cantered quiet circles over a fairly big fence (for them) without any mad running at all.

For the pulling I was getting in response to asking for connection, I used a trick I learned from Coach K and held the numnah with my outside hand alongside the rein. This anchored my hand in place, so stopping me from pulling back, but also making it harder for her to pull forward. It kills the forearms but by the end she decided that not pulling was just a much easier option.

some of the happy group: Sunè, Renè, Lullaby, Midas, Nugget, Trooper and Titan

We also have grazing for some of the horses at last, which makes my heart very happy. If we’re honest, it’s mostly (non-harmful) weeds, but they’re ponies, they like weeds. Lulu and Trooper have already visibly gained weight after a week in the grazing. Thanks to the abundant provision of rain, a gift straight from the Hand of God.

Glory to the King.

Storming

We need grass, desperately. But the grass was shrivelling up and dying, until this week. As prayer meetings were held in Parliament, my own little prayers were answered.

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old warhorse ❤

This meant a slow week for lessons, but we managed to cram all the training sessions in, too, sometimes in the restless wind and pelting droplets that precede the real storms so characteristic to the moody weather of this place that I love.

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I schooled Arwen in the rain. To all appearances, she loved it. We are working on a much slower schedule lately. God willing, we’ll finally get that last elusive grading point in two weeks’ time. We’re schooling dressage once a week, playing with our showing tests in preparation for next year once a week, and hacking at least once a week. This new schedule is part necessity – new training horses are eating my free time – and part relief; we were both getting frustrated with struggling with dressage. A day of basics every week is doing our relationship wonders.

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Then it rained some more. With our rain coming from the south – the direction in which we have the best view – we can see the storms coming from miles way. The sight is majestic, slightly terrifying, and so beautiful it hurts; awesome in the original sense of the word. I wonder sometimes if glimpsing God would be a little like it. Too beautiful to make sense of, terrifying, life-giving.

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Poor Faith was utterly neglected this week, with only one session, but it was a good one. We’re getting relaxation in walk and trot now, so we introduced a bit of canter to our lunging sessions. Her canter is somewhat graceless at the moment, but to be fair we have only done two laps on each rein while panicking slightly.

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Lovely Lady Erin started to outgrow her ugly stage,

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and headed off to her new home. She travelled like a little superstar. I miss her. ❤

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The moody sky is absolutely stunning.

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Especially as sunset heralds the arrival of another night shift on volunteer duty. I don’t work on the response vehicles, but I do like taking pictures of their pretty lights. For this born-and-bred farm girl, it feels really weird to look up and see streetlights.

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Icey helps me teach almost every afternoon, sometimes from the comfortable perch of my left toe.

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Champagne has been doing so, so well. Going large is easy now, and she hardly ever spooks properly anymore. Occasionally her ears will look and her head will go up, but she seldom actually jumps. Even then it’s just a jump and then we go back to work. We’re riding full dressage tests and jumping some fences now. Regrettably, her actual dressage schooling took a bit of a knock between having to spend two weeks just lunging and then working so hard on relaxing about the big arena, but that’s an easier fix than the anxiety.

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Ashy and Lulu remain two of my most trusted colleagues. Please stay sound, old girls.

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This storm came in pitch black, and really soaked the earth at last. It also washed away some of the dressage arena, but c’est la vie. We’ll shovel it up and put it back.

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That dark sky was a scary but most welcome sight.

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And followed by a fragment of rainbow, blazing in a gap amid the clouds as the storm retreated.

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This is Antwone, the new client horse. I do wish I saw him more often, but he’s a clever little biscuit, so we should still achieve something. He may be one of the most adorable little horses I’ve ever seen with the whole Friesian look plus Arab ears, crammed into all of 14 hands. He had his first coltish moment when I was bringing him in for work on Friday and received his first proper hiding, too, so that was the end of that. His lunging is coming on well, he has an obvious understanding of the commands already and three good gaits, but he’s nervous to canter in the small lunge ring at the client’s place. Their big ring is being repaired so that’ll go better soon.

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I saved the best news for last. By the grace of God – and the kindness of Coach K, and the steadiness of Jamaica – I passed Module 4. In fact, the riding paper was my highest mark by far. I would have liked to see a better mark for the lunging lesson, but the main thing is that I passed everything. I scraped the group but that was just botched time management that caused me to have to skip some things I really wanted to do. I taught a lesson when I was supposed to be sitting an exam and had to rush through the last half.

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If you’d told me that by the end of this year I’d be working on – and helping – severely remedial horses and passing the personal riding section of Module 4 (with its dreaded 85cm jumps) with 91%, I would not have believed you. That’s because I couldn’t do it.

But God did.

Glory to the King.

Adventures of Champagne and Sunè

So, we’ve had a busy two days with various adventurings. It started on Tuesday night when Champagne managed to hurt herself in the field and get a puncture wound in her side. It gave all of us something of a fright, not least Champagne, but mercifully does not appear to be serious. And for once her timing was good: she had a vet appointment the following day to have a check-up and X-rays in case her behaviour issues could be pain related.

This meant shipping her off to the clinic in Midrand, a prospect I viewed with not inconsiderable trepidation, considering that the last time she was boxed she had been sedated within the first five minutes and ran through fences on arrival at our yard. I didn’t want a repeat performance, thanks. I shoved her full of Good as Gold, which is a magnesium supplement and a very good calming remedy for stressed-out horse owners/trainers, and took the precaution of hiring a two-berth and bringing Stardust along for the ride.

Champagne boxed better than Stardust. I held my breath all the way to Midrand, but she was a model traveller. She spent the entire trip eating hay and trying to steal from Dusty’s net, and was calm and relaxed on arrival. I had gloves on and made sure all the gates were closed before unloading her, but I needn’t have bothered. She got off the box, looked around, felt a little tense and then began to eat some grass.

After hanging out in the stable for a bit, the vet appeared and his groom led her out for the lameness exam. This involved being led away from all the other horses, but she trotted up and down on a loose lead like an old hand and stood perfectly still for the flexion tests. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Then she went into the scary crush and had X-rays raken of all four her feet, for which she behaved perfectly. This from the horse that arrived sedated at my place because it was insane. I couldn’t really be happier.

The news from the exam is good, too. The wound is not serious as far as we can see; the vets cleaned it nicely and sent us home with antibiotics and NSAIDs and instructions. The lameness exam came up with nothing, but her feet are dreadful. She has very, very underrun heels and long toes, with a badly broken back hoof-pastern axis. This much I knew; what I didn’t know was that our farrier could be doing a whole lot more to sort it out. So we will be looking for a special farrier for the special creature. There are no bony changes showing on the X-rays yet, but her pedal bone needs to change its angle by about 13 degrees. It was fascinating to see exactly how the internal structures of the foot are so closely related to its external shape. I will be paying much closer attention to the feet in future.

The good news, though, is that nothing is causing her pain right now. I’m free to go on and deal with all the psychological problems, safe in the knowledge that there are no physical triggers right now.

Today a horse of an entirely different colour went on an entirely different adventure. The Arab stud down the road – home to Bahroe and Sevita, whom I schooled briefly – is under new management and has lovely trails now. The trouble is that none of the horses have really gone hacking before, so they needed a confident lead.

Enter Sunè and I. I wanted to take the dragon, but I wasn’t happy about riding down the gravel with her feets. I also wanted to take Ash but I worried for her tendon, and Lulu and Stardust aren’t super sound, and Trooper is young (and requires fsr too much leg), and Thunny and Jamaica aren’t totally trustworthy. So I took Sunè. I haven’t been on her in months, and she hasn’t been on a hack alone in months, but she’s fit and sound.

It’s about 3km down the road from us and we covered most of it at a smart trot. Sunè was eager for an adventure and carried me boldly forward. She hadn’t even broken a sweat when we arrived to find the new yard manager, who can’t be much older than me, tacking up Bahroe himself. It was so nice to see him looking relaxed.

Having dealt happily with trucks, culverts, ditches and water on the way there, Sunè promptly spooked at a lavender bush and a loopy Arab, then refused to drink from their lovely fancy fountain and settled to munching grass in their gorgeous stableyard.

Once Bahroe was ready, we set off; one fat little Nooitie and one wide-eyed grey Arab.

And two very chuffed yard managers. I haven’t been on a proper long hack in months, if not years. I think the last time I hacked off-property was last year when Arwen was still eventing.

We headed up the hill and through the woods, Sunè leading most of the way. She was on a loose rein and totally chilled. I like riding ponies that belong to eight-year-olds. She tried half-heartedly to nap a few times but quickly realised that that wasn’t going to fly with me.

The view from the top of the hill was incredible. Then sings my soul, O Saviour God, to Thee!

We got a little lost heading back down, but quickly figured out our mistake and found the right road. Bahroe was being absolutely amazing. At this point he started to take the lead a few times.

Then we headed back down along the teff field, finishing the loop back along the road to the gate. Sunè and I escorted Bahroe safely back to the gate – I think he would have been fine, but I didn’t want to abandon them on the road. My own escort turned up in my bakkie around this time, impeccably timed to follow me back home with the hazards on. The trucks are ridiculous on our road.

Sunè was still bouncy and cantered much of the way home. We only had one little incident when I looked down at the road and suddenly there was a cobra in it. Gotta love Africa. I don’t think Sunè even saw it; I spun her to the side away from it just as it sat up and began to flare its hood, and it shot off into a culvert, almost as unnerved as I was.

Sunè is pretty flattened now, but I think our ride was a hilly 10-12km more or less, so I’m pretty impressed with the fat little schoolie. She was impeccably behaved and I had a blast. And she gets the next three days off. And I get a bubble bath because I still had three horses to ride after that and my feet are killing me.

How great is our God. Glory to the King.