It’s an unashamed photo dump. But it’s long overdue. Besides, a) I’m almost out of memory, b) the Internet needs more pictures of Morning Star horsies.
This is Bahroe, an Arab gentleman that I had a temporary ride on.
Bahroe lives at a beautiful yard, which was fun working at. Here he’s being watched from the stable by Sevita, who I also got to ride.
August came and went, bringing with it the atrocious combination of winds and shedding. On the bright side, Nugget took her first selfie. ❤
Eagle and L have been on a few hacks, kitted out in Eagle’s new stuff. He’s become something of a plod – anybody can hack him.
Blizzard also got new stuff, which fits him like a glove. I also love the cage stirrups for novice owners, especially considering Eagle’s mom had a stirrup-related crash. We don’t need any more of those, thanks.
I have given Milady to K for next year (and afterward). Ash is the priority to get in foal this year and K needs something for when Renè sells, and the two of them get along famously. So I took the two OTTB mares on a hack and they were both fabulous.
Thunny gained most of his condition back after taking a bit of a hit during August, as they often do. His coat testifies that it wasn’t all that much of a hit, too.
Blizzard and I did hours and hours of hacking, usually accompanied by Eagle and L. Blizzard is such a steady little chap, although he occasionally thought of kicking at Eagle, but never got as far as actually doing it.
My very nervous kid still hasn’t been back on a pony. I don’t push the issue. We spend a lot of time playing with in-hand utility and lungeing and grooming and herding cows. He’ll be ready when he’s ready.
These two little nuggets about 75% killed me going on a solid hour’s hack, accompanied by yours truly afoot, and constantly wanting to go up hills and trot and stuff. One of the most wonderful and painful hours of my life so far, methinks.
Beautiful Lisna found a new home as a happy hack for a truly lovely lady. She landed with her bum in the butter, but we definitely miss her – not least me because she was amazing in the riding school.
K and her mom still squeezed in a last hack on Eagle and Lisna as I tagged along behind on Savanna, to date the only TB I’m comfortable hacking.
I do still ride Eagle myself, too, and he’s angelic. The yard looks so manageable from here. Pocket-sized, as if I could scoop it all up in my hand and keep it safe. I can’t, but I’m glad I know Someone Who can.
Magic’s last day turned out without overreach boots – this was shortly before I found him literally covered in blood. It was all over his belly and hindlegs in great melodramatic splatters. It speaks to the horse’s action-prone nature that I wasn’t even panicked, just relieved that he was upright and still had four legs glued on. He’d overreached horrendously and it bled and bled. Now his special expensive booties stay on 24/7 and he refrains from ripping off his own coronary band.
Hacking with this lot. Fellowship on horseback under the glorious sun. ❤
I tried to give Faith an apple. She had no idea what it was, even after I bit a piece off for her. I feel like a horse mom failure.
Champagne continues to work on her cow phobia. I actually managed to lead her into the field with the cows; she did panic and bolt at one point, whereon I received a well-earned bruised knee and wrenched shoulder for pushing her too hard, but we got it together. Now she’s still got a bit of an obsession about the spooky end at C, but most cows are OK.
Eagle and L, Ash’s old owner on Ash, and Blizzard and I herded our cows a bit as we came across them on a hack. Blizzard was fantastic about it, except when one of the cows didn’t want to move he nibbled her bum.
I think this is Skye’s first selfie, too. She was not amused. Apparently old battle queens don’t do the selfie thing. She is so well. ❤
Nugget does do it now though, even without a halter and lead. I can pick up her hind feet with a rope and L can even put bug stuff on her in the evenings. Progress!
Arwen’s herd got out into the passageway one morning and I felt like an epic horse whisperer when they all followed me back in. (It was feeding time).
My last ride on Destiny. Content with his training, his owners took him back to their nearby stableyard, where he and his mom both seem to be thriving. It was an incredible journey with this little brat and I thank God for it.
Blizzard is getting pretty ammy-proof. Toodling bareback in a halter? Check.
Almost nine years into our relationship, this horse still makes my heart skip a beat sometimes. ❤
She turned eleven on the first of September. The world is a better place for her being in it – I know my world is.
My comrade, my crazy dragon friend, and the one who’s got my back – I thank God for my Arwen.
It’s been another long and hard week under these big skies, but so worth it. My training has picked up somewhat with the addition of Savanna and Lisna to my schedule, as well as extra admin over month end, so we worked hard this week – but we’ve managed to get a whole lot done!
Thunny was fantastic this week, working on a bunch of Novice work, including the transitions, lengthenings and a little leg-yield or two. He also almost killed L with his lunging, I’m afraid – big dude still remains rather, um, unenthusiastic about the forward thing.
Magic is so fat I’m going to have to start limiting his teff at some point, although he’ll probably lose much of it when spring rolls around and he walks all over his field after the little bits of green grass. His liberty is going great. We’re still pretty much free lunging, but now I can get him to make his circles bigger and smaller, and come to me every time I ask.
I can easily see how the whole thing would go awry if you came at it trying to treat this dangerous huge animal like a dog, though. I very quickly established to Magic that if I say come it means to a spot just outside my space bubble, then I go to him, he doesn’t get to jump on top of me. This has kept things relaxed even when he wants to fool around and buck and express himself because he’s not close enough to accidentally hurt me, so he can have some fun.
Champagne brought me to my knees – literally. It’s not that we were making no progress, but my heart just breaks for that horse when she gets sucked into that whirlpool of anxiety over the littlest thing. I’ve never known a horse to stay so worried for so long – not even Magic. So she featured prominently in my prayers last week, and I started asking for a little more. First just hand walking around the terrifying dressage arena and then – wonder of wonders – I actually rode her all the way around the track without having any meltdowns! I used an older horse to give us a lead, which definitely helped, but in the end we took the lead. She spooked a couple times but it was a normal “ah scary!” young horse spook, not a meltdown.
Progress is slow with Pagney and I really hope her owners stay patient with me because to them it must look awfully like they’re paying me to do nothing. But we’re having big, life-changing conversations with this horse now, and if I rush now I’ll just break her right back down again. She needs so much to learn that I will never punish her for being afraid or write off her nerves as being unimportant. She just doesn’t know she can deal with things, and slowly she’s getting to a place where I can talk her down off the ledge.
In short, she’s finally beginning to trust me. Well done, special little soul. ❤
Beloved dragonbeastie had a bit of a weird week – our routine was just a bit off somehow. She worked brilliantly well, though. More on that later.
I do find that our usual dressage ride time – about 7am – works far better than any other time for her. It’s very quiet then, and she’s able to focus well. Afternoon rides amid the chaos of lessons and lunging and evening feed don’t go as well and she struggles to get into the right zone, but she does it for me.
Lady Erin had her (hopefully) last session about the box on Monday. She just marched right on in four times in a row without any trouble. She is a bit scared of backing out again after slipping last time, but she’ll do it without any drama. Her citizenship is basically done now; I just want to discuss the idea of having a bath, probably when the weather is nicer.
Lisna has been put on my list for twice a week this month. I have my concerns that she’s a bit big and uneducated for E. The horse does not have a violent bone in her body, but she does tend to get quick in canter and I’m not sure how she’ll do at a show. We’re going to try and take her to one in the end of the month and see how she goes before making any decisions or anything.
Savanna’s first show is next weekend and I’m looking forward to it. She’s a hard-trying horse and going MUCH better now that she understands her job a bit better. Her rhythm is lovely now and we’ve started to talk about connection, too. She does want to duck out the first time she sees a fence, but the tendency is decreasing – especially with her teenager.
Midas’s new child’s attendance was a bit sporadic this week due to circumstances beyond their control, so VT’s kid rode him again. This pony goes soooo well. He’s getting quieter and quieter – more and more suited to a first pony even at his age.
K is riding Milady with the idea of turning her into a schoolie since I have nothing really that’s big enough for adults and teens. She can’t just stand in a field open and in early pregnancy, she’s far too young for that. Her first heat cycle of the season arrived this week and I’m looking at sending her off to meet a very handsome grey Welsh husband on the next one or the one after.
This was Starlight’s last ride with us. She has found a new home at a fancy place in the city with some very nice people, and left on Thursday. The riding school will definitely miss her.
Eagle is just super. He’s actually more chill on hacks than in the arena and just loves going out whenever. He had to give Starlight and Lullaby leads past spooky objects on this particular hack. K rides him mostly now since he’s pretty finished and I am swamped.
Blizzard had his first few steps of canter very uneventfully in the ring, so he graduated to the dressage arena. I’m taking a new approach on schooling him, removing a lot of my usual emphasis on forwardness and rhythm in the early stages. It annoys me; I feel I’m teaching the horse to be ridden badly. But for a farm hack, whose owners’ buddies will probably want to take a spin now and then, it may be a quicker way to get him safe. Eagle is already too forward for them. Anyway, Blizzard didn’t look at a single spooky object, so his future as a hack looks bright.
Little Lullaby really perked up this week. I noticed she lost a bit of weight – not loads; she was about a 7 and now she’s about a 5.5 – and it’s affected her saddle fit. We tweaked that and it definitely helped. I also added a bit of concentrate and increased her joint supplements to see if that helps. It all seems to be paying off; she is more cheeky but also definitely more enthusiastic again. Which is good because Starlight left a gap poor old Lulu will have to fill (with Trooper’s help).
I took little Icey to the old age home for some interaction with the residents, alongside a group of other dog owners coordinated by the local SPCA. Ice is kinda terrified of old people but he’s getting better with each trip, and was actually really well behaved. It was a hugely soul-nourishing experience. God has this way of most feeding us when He sends us to feed others.
Ash is also in heat this week, yay! I’m still a bit up and down with choosing a stallion for her. I found a gorgeous Connemara stallion, but he’s maximum height and she’s just over. I’d also prefer a live cover stallion given her age. So we’re looking at an ex-1.10m jumping Welshie or at the stunning Welsh stallion that was reserve supreme in hand at HOY.
Lancey is so amazing on hacks now – I trust him very well alone, in groups, and in all three gaits. His responsiveness in the arena was not great this week, but he has been jumping with a lot more confidence than before. I’m hoping for his show next week to be his last under me before I hand him over to his kid for good.
Liana and her kid had an easy week jumping and hacking after having their brains fried by prix caprilli last week. They loved it.
This is Billy Bob, a tiny brown Jamaica from Winstead. He is lovely. My lesson this week was less lovely. I was back on board Al and his very long stride took me by surprise a bit; I was really struggling to see distances and ride a rhythm and it made me on edge because I felt like he was jumping out from under me a bit. We got it done, but it has left me with some apprehension for Module 4. I’ll be fine as long as the horse I get is short-striding and a bit lazy. If I get something a bit trigger-happy with big strides it may be a bit of a disaster. That’s up to God though, so He’s got it.
L and an online Module 2 student are writing their exams in a couple of weeks so it’s been Pony Club around here frantically learning stuff. These rules are basically impossible to get into your head and must be known from memory for the exams, so now there’s a poster in the feed room for L to chew over with every feed.
Destiny is probably going home to his mom at the end of the month and he feels pretty ready. He still drives me nuts from time to time, but he’s a solid citizen now and his mom handles him well.
I left the bad news for last because it comes with a serious prayer request. Precious Stardust has injured her gimpy leg on Friday afternoon. She started limping a bit halfway through a lesson; we got off and unsaddled, and when we walked her to the stable she was barely weight-bearing. I really, really hate to see a horse that lame, I really do, it’s seldom good. She’s on box rest and NSAIDs for the weekend, with the hope that it’s a bad muscle sprain that will resolve, but if I’m honest I have no idea what’s going on in there.
She has done so much. She is a cornerstone on which we built this yard and she owes me nothing, but I pray God that she’ll be OK. She’s my most stalwart colleague and most trustworthy helper and I really want to see her sound again. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.
After the emotional and spiritual high of last week, this one has left me a little flat. Make no mistake, we had good progress this week, including a lot of good rides and lessons and wonderful preparation for Finals tomorrow (these kids are amazing!), but I think we all felt a little rough around the edges after putting everything into pony camp.
I will give absolutely everything tomorrow, too, because my kids and ponies have been doing exactly that. Vastrap and his kid were so amazing on Tuesday that yesterday I just took them on a hack. They are so more than ready for whatever Finals will throw at them.
And after a bit of an unpromising lesson on Tuesday, Liana’s indomitable kid showed up to work on Thursday and gave it everything she had. Liana is hot and not always easy to keep rhythmic throughout a test but this kid absolutely nailed it. She’s going to ride her heart out at Finals because she always does.
Purple gloves make me happy, and so does Savanna. She is such a sweet, nonviolent, willing soul. She is desperately uneducated though, and it shows, but already after two or three weeks of work she’s starting to understand that there is no need to rush fences or cut corners. We still have a long way to go in terms of developing self-carriage and any form of technique, but obedience is already improving. From next week she’s in full training and competing with me, so that’ll be fun.
Champagne has been out of work for the above reason. Ah pony. Why? Six stitches and a week later and it’s almost healed, but it’s a pity we’ve lost that training time.
Magic is better at teenage girl selfies than I am.
He’s just better at selfies generally, really.
Skye has a nicer winter coat than anyone. She is really contented at the moment. Looking after Lady Erin seems to be all the stimulation she really needs; the old girl is happy to stand in a peaceful field and come in to do the Scripture reading before shows and get stuffed full of cookies. Especially the cookies, if we’re honest. She doesn’t crave people, although that’s not to say we don’t both enjoy grooming (and cookie-feeding).
Magic, on the other hand, is by no means ready for retirement. I had been toying with the idea a little. Riding has been either anxious or boring of late; I don’t want to push him with the flatwork, I can’t cope with the jumping, and he can’t cope with hacks. We lunge but that’s just exercise. We both really need a conversation; we need to spend quality time and not just be together, but talk and interact and learn things.
So, because he really enjoys groundwork, we’re playing with liberty. I know – I rolled my eyes reading the websites, too. (Ignore bad behaviour? So what do you do if it charges/bites/kicks/rears/pushes you around?) But it’s what Magic needs. He never gets stroppy. He never gets domineering. He needs something where there’s no pressure and lots of affirmation and this seems like fun. So here goes nothing, I guess.
I’m just gonna leave this right here because it makes me so happy seeing them regain their shine here.
Pretty Ash has been doing so well with L. Sound for 15 minutes’ trotting for several weeks now, we’ve added in some canter. It’s rather more canter than L is used to but Ash takes care of her. She is such a classy, attractive pony – I kind of wish we’d had her when she was younger and sounder and ready to take on the world.
I bought the dragon a nametag. Try not to laugh.
Speaking of dragons, we have been dressaging. More to come later. I’m using the double on her most of the time now. She does go better and yes, she should be able to do it in a snaffle, but the horse didn’t get a good foundation and right now we’re just muddling along trying to find what works for where we are now. Dressage coach S might come see us next month, then we can ask her opinion.
Nugget is incredibly content living with Magic. She’s in a better condition than ever before and even runs around the field playing with him – something I’ve never seen her do before. Unfortunately, after my week off and then pony camp, we’ve taken a bunch of steps back in handling. I haven’t gotten a halter back on her again. We’re making progress back there every day (I can rub her neck and shoulder now), so we’ll regain the lost ground quickly. I’m trying to make a point not to be upset about it, because there’s just no way I would have coped without the week off. And if I don’t cope there’s no yard and if there’s no yard there’s no safe haven for Nuggets.
On the jumping front, this was our exercise of the week; canter pole, couple of bounces, one stride, vertical. I added V-poles to the vertical later on. It was very challenging, especially for the kids, because they had to really ride the ponies up into their hands and get them to use themselves instead of just point and go. But it was confidence building for the horses and helped sharpen reflexes and round jumps nicely.
I found it confidence building too – so much so that the last vertical ended up at about a metre. My first in years, and Jamaica’s first under me. He just loped right on over and didn’t take it seriously enough to give it much scope, so it’s comforting to know he can do it and with such quietness.
He is such a blessing. If I had unlimited funds I would have bought him long ago. As it is, if I do pass Module 5, it’ll in large part be due to what God is doing for me with this funny-looking little horse.
Arwen has a jumping day each month, and she charged through it as well,
as did Destiny, Savanna (a simplified version), Thunder, and Lancelot. Lancey particularly impressed me because carefulness has been something we’ve long struggled with and he didn’t knock a single pole, except for rubbing the last vertical so that the V-poles fell off. He was kind of dorkward about it but he did the thing and I’m so so proud of the little chap.
I also started playing with an automatic release. My crest release is really good when it’s good, but disappears as soon as I’m nervous. I feel like I have to keep my hands back to keep my weight back in case the horse stops. It isn’t true, but it’s how it feels. The automatic is harder so it makes me concentrate on my lower leg and hip so that I can pull it off, but psychologically it’s significantly easier to follow the mouth slightly rather than toss my hands up the neck. I kinda like the result but I’m not dead sure yet.
And I’m throwing this in here too – G wasn’t able to exercise Pennie much last week, so I got to borrow her for a day and have some fun. Love this pony. She’s epic. Pictured: reason why I must learn a better release.
Eagle is going much better. He can be tricky to train for his novice owners; he’s never naughty, but he is responsive and forward-thinking by nature, so when you’re a novice trotting along and you panic and grab with your legs he’s probably going to go faster. We spent a lot of time installing some very sharp brakes and a relaxed halt, and he’s doing great.
They harvested the maize last week. The world suddenly looks bigger; and there’s not as much to spook at. I borrowed Dusty from the kids for a hack and remembered why I trust this little pony like nobody else.
This is Troy, who is my current favourite schoolie from Winstead. He is large and round and lazy but also jumps anything if you get him to go fast enough, so he’s my type. We were jumping over 80cm in fairly tricky exercises last lesson and he gives me a lot of courage. Thank you Troy (and coach K of course).
This cheeky adorable Faithy thing has been getting ideas above her station and picking fights with herd members, so now she has one kick on each hock. One more kick and I’ll move her out, but I suspect she’s doing something to provoke getting bullied. Bratty 2yo thinks she can rule the roost down there.
We have been having more conversations about the horsebox. She doesn’t walk right in yet, but if you show her you have cookies she’ll go in. She’s still learning about the world and I’m still learning about her, but I love her so much. Also she will do anything for cookies.
This is Meatlug (after the dragon – a greatly inappropriate name) and I think she’s beautiful. Those eyes…
Destiny has his ups and downs. Our personality clash makes for a difficult relationship, but we have been making really good progress. He’s so good on hacks now, jumped the difficult gymnastic, and is learning to move laterally off my leg.
Blizzard is trotting laps in the (amazing, new) ring now. Slanted poles are amazing, by the way – I haven’t had my knees smacked even once. He was scared of me posting at first, but his reaction to being scared is to stop dead, so that’s quite OK for a novice horse. We have some confidence building to do in trot but it won’t be long before we canter.
Lullaby has been a bit flat lately. I’ve tried the usual tricks – decreased workload, time off, a fun jumping session with a big kid – to no avail. She doesn’t seem unsound or in any physical trouble beyond the usual stiffness that we’re controlling with joint supplements, but there’s just a lack of her usual sparkle. I really hope her age and many years in the riding school aren’t catching up to her. I need her – we need her. But I’m her advocate. So we’ll try hacks and different food and so on until my stalwart little colleague is herself again. She has served so well for so long at such a thankless task.
My job is easy by comparison. It’s the least I can do to be as faithful as my good little ponies.
It was pony camp, which I always love because I get more than that single golden half-hour once a week with each child. I get a chance to listen. I get a chance to learn.
We had many kids, for us (12? 13? I’m honestly not sure) and I can confidently say they all impressed me this week. For sure some of them got told off rather sternly but they are all lights in the world. They all have their futures thrown wide before them and the knowledge that I had a whole week with them – a week that God could use to influence their lives – was a tremendous thing. Terrifying at times, but tremendous.
Bible study was something else. The first three days felt like they weren’t really going anywhere – I was preaching the Gospel, and they were listening (most of the time) like good little children. But such is Bible study, I’m finding. It takes a while to build the trust that makes it a conversation. On the last day, we ended up running 45 minutes long because the kids weren’t running out of questions. We sat together and had an open, candid, non-judgmental, honest and sincere discussion about God. Jesus was there and the Holy Spirit was working! It was a day that reminded me of what I’m here for.
Of course, much was learned about horses, too. We rode bareback (a first for most of the kids) and played that game where you give each child a coin under each lower thigh and the kid who manages to keep their coins the longest wins. This was to much hilarity, but regrettably, we lost almost all of the coins in the arena sand.
We also learned how to turn out a pony, to varied success. This was less of a hit with some of the boys, but for the most part they pulled together and did some rather stellar work. Trooper especially looked more dashing than I expected.
We also learned about the points of the horse, parts of the saddle and bridle, and colours and markings. The ponies were as usual entirely accepting of having stickers stuck all over them.
They also did an awesome job painting and decorating all our jumps,
and Kindness Rocks, which are now littered all over the yard. Some have rather imaginative spelling (and others are teetering precariously on top of poles, on the brink of falling upon somebody’s head like a bolt of divine inspiration) but they make me smile.
We jumped some jumps (pictured: head groom L winning at this) and limbo’d under others (not pictured: head groom L falling on her head trying to win at this).
There were no falls or serious injuries at all this pony camp, to my great relief. One kid did cut his finger on the fence, whereupon it bled magnificently, but it was nothing that making a big fuss, pulling on my blue gloves and sticking a Star Wars plaster couldn’t fix. I also got kicked halfway across the arena (walked behind a sleeping pony and touched its bum like an idiot) but luckily I went flying and skidded several metres so that seems to have taken the worst of the impact out of it. Young muscles do have their advantages.
The week culminated in today’s training show, our first ever. It was an outrageous success – by the grace of God. Literally. He was so with us. And I have no pictures. Sorry.
We opened with Scripture reading, a la Lipizzaners, by bringing in old Skye and reading Job 39:19-25. Not gonna lie, standing next to my brave old friend and facing the crowd (more than 80 people – it was quite the crowd) and the powerful words straight from my God’s mouth rolling over us, I got a little teary-eyed.
The POG class was enormous and consisted of basically everyone whether they could jump or not. But I only had two on the lead rein and everyone else remembered their track perfectly, even if they walked the whole thing. Lulu, Trooper (yes – the 3yo; ridden off lead by a 6yo kiddie. He was good except once he walked into an upright and it fell over), Stardust, Midas, Sunè, Renè, and Thunder all packed their kids around without putting a toe wrong. Starlight had a spook and cantered off causing a little panic, but the kid got her back and she was fine after that.
Lisna and E also trotted around the POG and 20cm effortlessly. Lisna didn’t look at a thing and E handled first-show nerves brilliantly.
Most notably, David and his person went around the POG in hand. A mighty feat considering all the fears that horse had to conquer to get there. I gave him a show name and it says everything about him: Facing the Giants. He has faced some incredible Goliaths.
The 20cm was more of the same, with the addition of Savanna and her teenager. Savanna has been SO naughty of late (used to following other ponies over jumps + now feeling rather too good = naughty) but she was super and her teenager rode her really, really well for clear rounds.
Rain and Arwen also popped around the 20cm and 30cm, to general applause. Arwen also packed another rider who she’s never seen before in her life around the 60cm and 70cm, kicking all of our bums in the process. That’s the dragonbeast for you. I love that about my dance partners – they can dance with me one day and carry random people around the next.
In the 40cm, Destiny got his first jumping win under his mom. Sunè and her kid also popped around beautifully and Starlight came second with a kid that will hopefully become her kid eventually.
In the 50cm, Liana and her kid charged around brilliantly for second place. Midas and his new little rider had their first show together and came third, and Pennie’s mom G jumped her young horse, Saartjie, for first place. When G got Saartjie about a year ago the pony had never seen a fence before in its life and I’ve never been on her so I am VERY chuffed with both. K and Renè also had a great clear round.
It was more of the same in the 60cm, with Arwen first, Saartjie second and Lancelot third – albeit having a rather gawky round because I was in the dressage saddle (the others were all taken) and mainly focused on not losing my stirrups. Lancey was amazing for the whole thing, jumping all clear rounds. We were all expecting Vastrap to win because he is awesome but he got a bit wild and threw in a stop – luckily for his child because I don’t think she could have sat the only distance available to him at that pace. He won the 70cm, with Lancey second and Arwen third.
The 80cm was only Pennie and G and Jamaica and I, and Maicy totally showed me again why I lease him. I was exhausted by this point and just sort of hung on and pointed him at the jumps. The distances were ugly, the rhythm was off, and we’d had one minute to warm up – but Jamaica just took me over each fence despite my mistakes. Good boy. He won it despite a rail down because Pennie got somewhat overexcited and crashed through a bunch of jumps.
The last class was called the 85cm but only because I didn’t want to say out loud that Jamaica and I were jumping a 90cm track. I needn’t have worried, though. Jamaica was superb. Both G and I had a pole down but Pennie was like 15 seconds faster so they won.
I am so happy with it – all of it. I feel so honoured to be among this group of horses and riders and to feel the buzz that was at this stableyard today. It’s more than just a good atmosphere brought about by mutual goodwill. It’s in me but not of me. It’s the Holy Spirit at work.
This evening I had one last job – herding the members of field A (Arwen’s group) back to their field, which was being used as a warmup. It was a short way along the corridor so I elected to just shepherd them along rather than catching each one. I whistled them up and Arwen led the charge, snorting fire. Magic caught on and started bucking in the neighbouring field and then suddenly they were all running – thirty-one shining, happy horses – each a thunder-clothed collection of graceful curves bursting with life and exuberance, the sky and earth trembling with the power of them. I was caught breathless in the whirlwind of it, and I understood what the psalmist meant when he said: Let everything that has breath praise the name of the Lord.
No eye has seen what He has prepared for us, but perhaps sometimes we catch the edge of Heaven’s melody, curling on the cusp of hearing.
C. S. Lewis wrote that it doesn’t really matter how many times we fall; it’s the getting up each time that counts. Some days I feel very like those “muddy and tattered children” he wrote about, but I still know my heavenly Daddy is just waiting to wipe the mud and tears away and welcome me Home. Every day is one step closer – sometimes a stumbling, fumbling, floundering step. But a step nonetheless.
So, too, our journey to excellence in horsemanship is heading tangibly in the right direction, marred but not stopped by the odd mistake or bad day.
In anticipation of one day finally moving up to 90cm, I’ve been slowly picking apart my fears and working on them one by one. I’ve found myself almost entirely comfortable at 80cm at home, but absolutely entirely uncomfortable at 90cm. It’s all in my head, of course, but that’s fine. So is all my skill, dreams, and resolution to stick with my God. One’s head is a valid and important place for something to be. Abba is being patient with me and so is the horse; it’s the least I can do to return the favour.
In the past if I wanted to move up I’d set up a course at that height and jump it. It hasn’t worked. Right now I’m taking the idea to pieces and tackling each one individually. The first order of business was dealing with my thing with combinations, starting with this gymnastic line – pole, bounce, one stride, one stride. The ones were very long and the last oxer was about 75-80cm. I had to ride Jamaica forward at this or he’d throw in a nasty chip or a valiant leap to try and help me out. So that helped for my terror of getting the horse forward (which I must do because I can’t expect him to keep saving my bum at 90cm).
Then we jumped a single vertical in my comfort-zone dressage arena at 90cm. Then an oxer, only 60cm high but 100cm wide. So far, I’ve been OK. Not quite comfortable, but definitely not in the fear zone.
The horse is wonderful. I want to poke my eyeballs out with a fork when schooling him on the flat sometimes – but that’s also improving. Over fences he just goes in the same rhythm at every single jump even when I’m messing up and it’s amazing.
Savanna started to be very cheeky with her teenager, so she has been dumped into boot camp with mean Auntie Firn, as naughty ponies are. She is very sweet and levelheaded (especially for a 6yo thoroughbred) but there’s just no real schooling here at all. We spent a whole session just talking about rhythm. Then we spent another session trotting the same 50cm fence. She had two options: run sideways from a mile away, or gallop at the fence. The mare is not spooky but she doesn’t know where to put her feet and the running out has caused her rider to chase her at everything, so now she chases herself.
I explained to her that she really just has to go quietly over and by the end if it, she did. Then she went dramatically lame with an abscess. As thoroughbreds do. 😦
Miss South Africa here has settled in much better and seems quite happy and relaxed in her stable and field these days. Work, regrettably, is another story. This horse’s anxiety levels are through the ceiling and she seems completely uneducated on how to actually deal with it. She is nice to ride in her comfort zone with three balanced, obedient and connected gaits, but we have just been walking and walking and walking. Trying to show her where to find the stillness in the storm. I should know. Her ground manners are getting better (it’s amazing what a well-placed elbow can achieve) and we’ve come to an agreement: I don’t push her into the fear zone, she doesn’t rear up and strike at my face.
Liana has also developed a cheeky run-out at oxers. Only at home, of course – this pony doesn’t know how to stop at shows. I’ve passed Midas on to a new little rider so I’m giving Liana to Vastrap’s kid to school a bit. Her little girl is doing better and better, and always manages to get her over on the second or third go despite being very little.
Lulu has been having a bit of a break after working very hard for the past two SANESA qualifiers. Much pampering has helped children back into her good books.
Magic is so well and happy. He was a bit lost without Exavior for a while, but I moved Nugget in with him and he is now back to full happiness again. He was wonderful to ride last week and much better to lunge – we can now canter on the lunge without having any wild moments.
Faith’s front end is finally catching up to her back end. She’s become so trusting of people. Definitely has an opinion and can be spooky, hot and quite pushy – but we’re working on that. This unicorn has an inner dragon. Besides, so far my spooky dressage horses have done all right.
Destiny’s focus has been on hacking. He’s nice in company and manageable on the trail alone, but nappy heading out. A well-placed dressage whip has sorted some of that out, however.
Arwen and I headed into the woods for the first time in – well, long. A year or more. I used to ride in these woods all the time before old Skye retired, but the string of young and/or spooky horses that have followed have kinda ruled that one out for me. But Sunè’s kid and I finally did it again and it was really rather amazing. You’re in another world in the woods. And even with Ice bounding in the bushes, Arwen never turned a hair.
As for Sunè and her kid, what more can I say? They’re a match made in heaven. She’s developed a cheeky little run-out, but nothing a session with me won’t fix.
Champagne makes for amazing photos.
I love how the trees dapple her twice in this one. Also she is now OK with chickens.
Last week ended refreshingly slowly, with dressage to look forward to, and lots of these special little moments scattered throughout. Chocolate froyo and my loony sister – as well as finally making my first foray into Francine Rivers when I found Redeeming Love on special for peanuts – are a good combination.
So are cats in boxes,
and rare moments of creative energy,
and dogs on laps,
and perfect plaits,
and dressage-sculpted dragon butts all in blue.
Blessed beyond all expectation. Glory to the King.
This was Arwen’s first show since April. She boxed great, but was a little sweaty when we got there. We headed for the warmup and she proceeded to engage full dragon mode. Like – she was rearing. And bucking. And bolting. I feared for my life, or at least for anything flammable in the immediate surroundings.
True to form, she actually stayed pretty obedient in between the rearing and blowing flames at stuff. We dragoned majestically up to the judges, leaving them with mildly singed eyebrows, and headed down centreline with minimal straightness and maximum sass. I couldn’t get the grin off my face. She wasn’t scared really; she was just alive and fit and bursting with the exuberance being created. Who could blame her? I was filled with a sort of grateful giddiness that had nothing to do with horses. What’s a dressage test going downhill in a handbasket compared with knowing Christ the King?
In the end, though, the tests themselves weren’t that bad. She settled as we went on. We broke to jog in our medium walk once, but we got the simple changes in Elementary 4, earning 60% and a third place ribbon. Elementary 5 was a bit floppy; I got lost and got the -2 for error of course, and we kind of swooped down into the simple change, then proceeded to break to trot for half a stride after the medium canter and throw a random flying change in the counter canter. So we got two nice fat 4s for that. Still, 57% – so it’s grading points. We have 5 in total now, halfway to points for EM, although we’ll likely never actually do it.
Thunder was so quiet to plait, merely dragging L’s hapless boyfriend around a bit. He hacked obediently to the warmup away from his buddies. The warmup itself started out rather worried and we had two tremendous sideways spooks when birds flew out of the grass (seeing how he’s never seen a bird before), so I was kind of expecting a disaster and resigned myself to just giving the dude a positive experience.
He never quit trying though. Again, worried as he was, he stayed obedient and got it together for me. I don’t deserve them, I really don’t. So we headed down centreline in Prelim 2 and suddenly he was totally fine. Happy even – and relaxed enough for a killer free walk.
I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but Prelim 3 wasn’t a test, it was a dance. I wasn’t concentrating all that hard. Not on the test, anyway. The sky – and heaven – was very big and blue, and so close. Close enough to kiss, or be kissed, perhaps. Either way, it was amazing, and I’m not talking about the riding.
The riding was good too though. The judge said she wanted to take Thunny home and keep him. I don’t blame her because he was so, so good. He was worried at first but he coped, then eventually relaxed into it and just revelled in the joy of it.
He won Prelim 2 with 65.91% and Prelim 3 with 72.5%. He had 8 for his free walk and 8s for both his canter-trot transitions. The first judge would have liked him more forward – I think I was still being quite conservative, waiting for a spook – and his stretchy trot didn’t really stretch, and his halts weren’t square. But that’s actually kinda exciting because it means this horse can do even better.
So he didn’t improve on his Prelim 2 score from last time, but he did get 72% on Prelim 3, so that’s a huge win.
So I actually couldn’t have asked for better from my dance partners, and it was amazing.
Then K and Renè had their prelim tests and despite Renè having a naughty moment in the warmup, she settled right down and K rode her nicest tests yet. It was Renè’s first dressage and she got 58% and 60%, not shabby at all. K brought her on all by herself, too.
Then it was the moment of truth – Destiny’s mom was riding him at his first ever outing at walk/trot 2. And you know what? He was brilliant. Delinquent Destiny who broke my lunging ring twice – he didn’t put a toe out of line. He didn’t buck, he didn’t run away, he didn’t even spook. He just squiggled down the centreline and whinnied a few times, that’s all. When he came fourth with 60%, well, it was just the cherry on top.
As for my goals, I don’t really know about the rest, but love, joy and peace? They all showed up.
So the good news is that we survived the unadulterated chaos that was this week.
The better news is, next weekend is dressage with Destiny (walk/trot under his mom), Renè (Prelim under K), Arwie (Elementary 4 and 5) and Thunder (Prelim 2 and 3). I can’t wait.
Eagle has accepted his job as the steady hack with aplomb. He can still have the odd little spook or sticky moment, but, well. He was backed in March, after all.
His mom is also back on him now that she’s recovered from her tumble, and shows admirable handling of the expected nerves. Eagle, obviously, is being perfect. He has developed a new habit of gaping and hanging on the hand a little in his downwards, so we’ll play with different snaffles and see if something else is more agreeable.
Firepaw (from Warriors) and Meatlug (from How to Train Your Dragon) are adorable, but appearances are deceiving.
Lady Erin and I started to talk about the box. She did have one warmblood tantrum about it, but she’s currently, like, 12.2hh, so it didn’t go anywhere.
This adorable child was way more amused with riding bareback than Lullaby was with being ridden bareback.
The kid that rides Midas has put herself on a quest to be good without stirrups. I think she’s pretty good already.
Ash was mysteriously sick for a day. She ran a fever and just looked a bit off and I panicked and basically gave her everything I could think of, and she was fine by lunch. Nothing ever came of it, so that’s a bit of a mystery, but it seems like a fairly benign one.
In anticipation of his competitive debut, Destiny got in the box. He was exceedingly well-mannered and cooperative, I’m pleased to report.
I love these two round dressagey butts.
Blizzard graduated to the long-lines. He has a strangely fussy little mouth, but his teeth are done so it’s kinda just a matter of being patient and letting him learn to deal. He is very obedient and will probably only ever be ridden on a loose rein in his hacking future, so I’m not losing sleep over it.
Trooper is on a six-week semi-hiatus from schooling and jumping. The little chap is only three and a half and we already have all his basics and little tiny jumps installed, so he deserves a break. In the meantime he goes on hacks when I have nobody else to use.
In my continuing quest to get my wayward heels back under my hips where they belong, I’ve been experimenting with stirrup lengths. It seems the Wintec has the effect of ever-so-slightly pulling my leg forward because of the position of the stirrup bar in relation to the deepest point of the seat. We’ve gotten around this by doing lots and lots of work without stirrups so that I get used to sitting right and my body doesn’t get to think of excuses to do its own thing.
It appears I am finally conquering the tension through my hips, so when relaxed and unrestrained, I manage to sit like a human being at last.
Skinny Savanna is already so much fatter. The magic of ad-lib grass and a bit of balancer does it again and it makes my heart happy as she begins to thrive.
She has been SO naughty though, running out at every fence she can with her kid. I think the adjustment from huge groups all going around together at her previous yard, down to private lessons or two in a lesson here, have been a bit of a shock for them both. She’s in half training with me now so we’ll get it sorted.
It’s a bit of a menagerie around here.
Our biggest beginner group yet: five, through from dad down to five-year-old little sister. Lisna, Starlight, Lulu, Sunè, and Stardust have been impeccable.
Milady has put on so much weight this month it’s almost scary. She was about a 3/10 when we weaned Lady Erin and now she’s about 6/10. K has started to ride her for me so that I can use her as a trail horse and schoolie until she’s in foal again, whenever that may be.
She has the gentlest spirit. ❤
Typically, in trying to correct one flaw, I’ve created another. Now my heels camp out somewhere three miles behind me while I perch. I’ll find the balance. I have a patient dance partner.
Ash is loving the hack life. She’ll be terribly useful in the school once her tendon rehab is complete.
After much desensitising, I finally put a leg over Blizzard. He was, as you can see, pretty cool about it. Just the way I like it.
This little one got to try out our brand-new 17m lunging ring in the brief window between its being built and being recruited as turnout for Champagne until she settles down. I love it. It even has fancy slanting sides so the youngsters can quit whacking my knees on the fence.
Nugget is recovering very nicely. The plan is for her to move in with Magic once she’s regained the use of her neck fully. I’m hoping his love and joie de vivre will rub off on her, and he really, really missed Exavior.
For now, the tack boxes have been stolen to be a table for her cheeky little majesty.
After weeks of improvement, Arwen’s canter-walks have gone down the drain again a little. On the bright side, we suddenly have shoulder-in and rein back. Poor Arwen – Elementary is tough when neither of us really know what we’re doing at the level yet. Thunder has it easy by comparison. For now.
Life with Champagne has been a little interesting, but she is settling one day at a time. She’s used to very little turnout, but seems to settle much better outside and fret quite a bit in the stable. The poor girl is extremely anxious about basically everything – I don’t understand how she can maintain that level of anxiety for so long. We’ll sort it out.
Dusty cannot understand her new buddy. So young, so well-bred, so well cared for, so sound, so gorgeous. What does she have to worry about?
Jump judged today at coach K’s family’s event and realised just how much I miss everything about eventing. Someday.
Praying for a peaceful next week, but ready to see God’s will in it, whatever it is. Glory to the King.