Sunburnt

Highveld weather: two days ago we had cold mist and an icy wind straight from Antarctica, and today the heat came. The sun was merciless, so hot and bright it felt like the light was pressing down on us physically. I guess sometimes the real Light can feel that way too, but the fact remains that both are life-giving.

so much air here ❤

Philosophying aside, for us it means sunburn – horses and people both. Of course, the horses with pink noses religiously get cream on so they don’t burn, but us humans are perpetually red, peeling, or gorgeously tanned. (The bits that you can see. The bits you can’t see are positively luminescent).
It also meant that the school ponies were irritable and moody after their first lesson, but on the upside the training horses were extremely relaxed and didn’t have the energy for melodrama.

Exavior was the hero of the day. I didn’t lunge him at all, just threw his tack on and climbed aboard. He was much less against my inside hand today in trot and so good to halt that I leaned down, opened the ring gate and rode him up into the big arena. He was positively angelic. My adrenalin was sky high and I had to pull myself out of that heels-up hunched-over fetal position a few times, and I know my breathing was very sticky, but he just dealt with it and plugged along. He wasn’t spooky at all, just a bit distracted by the others and obviously very wiggly. He’s been such a trooper about my nerves so far, I really owe him one.

After this high pressure ride, we went on the most stunning hack up the koppie (rocky hill). The views are incredible and Arwen was so relaxed and happy.

Jamaica was next. He had his first jumping session under me yesterday. He hasn’t jumped since he broke his scapula a year ago, and judging by his flatwork I was extremely dubious, so when he overjumped the first little fence I promptly went and got a neck strap and my big girl panties. I do not need my arm broken too, thank you very much. But after the first few giant leaps he settled down beautifully and began to enjoy himself and plop along happily. Today was flatwork, and we kept it quite low-key, working on trying to get a connection in the canter circles.

Destiny had been so good last week, giving me two whole long sessions without any napping, that I optimistically stuck his bridle on and took a lunge roller down to the ring with me. He did nap once, at which I was so indignant that I gave him one hiding and he promptly cut it out, so I put the roller on too and he didn’t turn a hair.

no hairs turning here

Zara’s session was a little odd; she was hyper to lunge and I was about to get on when there was a loud twang and Lady Erin leapt up from the wrong side of the fence, having fallen asleep underneath it and gotten up in a panic. Zara was abandoned in the ring while T and I wrestled the baby monster back into her field. We had just succeeded in this endeavour when there was another loud twang and Zara crashed underneath the ring gate, galloping off merrily. Luckily she was quite OK to catch and I patched up the ring and got on her for three gaits without incident. We finished with some more work in the big arena. She wiggled quite annoyingly, but wasn’t at all spooky or nervous.

I only had like ten minutes for poor Faithy (welcome to being one of mine, Faithy) but they were ten very good minutes. She still only suffers herself to be caught for food, but once caught she’s very relaxed about grooming. I picked out her forefeet for the first time today. We also walked twice around her field without a bum rope.

so shiny

Magic finished off my riding for the day, not really on the best note. He kept it together but he wasn’t relaxed like yesterday. He felt hot and a little bit reactive, so we stuck to flatwork until he settled and then I put him to bed.

Also, shout out to Starlight’s mom! Starlight was a sob story on Facebook seeking a new home for a teensy amount of cash. I said no, but Starlight’s mom bought her anyway and that little horse is a machine! God obviously said yes!

wheeee

Glory to the King.

Midgets and Giants

So y’all (okay, Emma) asked for more pictures of my beautiful Africa, specifically the 228ha that I call earthly home. I need no further excuse to fill my posts with pretty nature spam.

I love this place so much. I don’t remember a place before it; in a climate that can go from waving green fields bathed in golden sunlight to the savage majesty of a breaking thunderstorm in minutes, I know the swing of its moods almost subconsciously. Old Skye and I explored every hollow and rock; its beauty has ripened with age, grown up as I did, an unfading splendour that never disappoints. It was here that I first felt the inexplicable, mighty, dynamic, overwhelming presence that in my early writings I called “the magic” and that I finally found a name for years later: God.

This very earth runs in my blood. And like blood, I’ll leave it behind, but for now in my heart it’s the most amazing place in the whole world.

This morning was nippy as we headed out to feed, with a kind of shy, patchy mist as the sun came up.

On a far less poetic note, Lady Erin has entered the bug-ugly but button-cute stage. She still has nice legs and an impression of athletic quality, but it’s like someone took a baby warmblood and dressed it up as a donkey. A mangy donkey. The colour is very odd and don’t ask me about those floofy ears.

hello person hand, I eat you now

Faithy has happily adapted to the more domestic life and is milking it for all it’s worth. She’s perfectly happy to come over and let me do whatever with her, but only if I have a treat. And it has to be the right treat. She’s meant to be on a balancer to help her grow but she prefers the lucerne pellets, and will only deign to eat the balancer if I beg.

She has me all figured out and she knows it. It’s so adorable.

Also, Olive is doing great! She’s still not safe to ride because her neuro thing hasn’t quite recovered yet, in that the feet do not always go where they are meant to go, but she’s not complaining.

 

T was kind enough to get some pictures of Exavior’s session today. He’s been such a good chap lately. I tried to get some more canter on Thursday, but he again only managed one floundering stride. He seems very willing to try and didn’t resist at all; I think balance is a problem and the 15m ring that works so well for the ponies is not ideal for a big giant warmblood.

I don’t even look small on him right now but just you wait until he’s six or seven and as big as a bus

So we’ve made cantering on the lunge a priority. He just needs to build some muscles so he can hold his giant coathanger self up properly. He usually only works for 15-20 minutes at a time, but it’s amazing what you can achieve in 15 minutes if you do it often enough. Far better I think than doing an hour and frazzling a baby brain and body.

I like when the whoa button works

He feels so much less huge and impressive than I expected of him that I thought he was going like a real school pony, but on the pictures he actually looks pretty good. Even in the halter he has the obedience thing pretty down.
I like this picture a lot. I know he looks like a giraffe, but he’s supposed to. We haven’t even approached the whole connection conversation yet. I want him flowing freely forward and straight from behind at the touch of a button first. And here he’s actually doing well; he’s going forward by himself without my hands or legs even touching him, he’s tracking up, he’s even in a level balance. Not doing so bad after all.

Ignore me, I do weird things aboard babies, it’s kept me alive so far.

Then I rode a bunch of the others who were all very solid. Arwen jumped fine. Midas, Jamaica and Sunè schooled well. I petted Nugget’s neck and Faith exhibited some very athletic drama queen spooks upon being introduced to the bum rope when we talked about halter training. 

To finish the post, I must brag about this one amazing kid in the riding school. She’s five and she rides better than I did when I was ten or eleven. Seriously. Look at those adorable little independent hands. She takes exactly zero nonsense from Lullaby and I spend much of our lessons trying to think of a reason not to let her canter yet (apart from the humiliating one, which is that my nerves will not survive). This, kids, is what happens when you show up to all your lessons and try really hard.

I want like ten of them

Glory to the King.

HOY on the Horizon

I learned my lesson from the disastrously chaotic Nooitie shows last year: now we’re preparing early. Horse of the Year starts in a little over five weeks and we’re already in a flat spin trying to sort everything out for it. We’re going to be stuck there all week, competing every single day with nine horses and five handlers.

Liana, Vastrap and Renè are going with their respective kids. L and VT have done it all before and will be just fine; Renè is a good old Arop Nooitie mare, viz., she will also be just fine.

proud of each other

I also have fair amounts of confidence in Zara and Tara, since they’re just doing in-hand and were ready for it in the end of November (we were meant to do a coloured show, only it cancelled).

Arwen, obviously, has totally got this. Arwen has always got this.

so let’s play in water instead of practicing

No, my worries are the three babies that are just about to start their career with me, beginning with the Pre-HOY training show in a couple weeks.

Exavior is going to his first show ever. Just in-hand, obviously, but six months ago I couldn’t even get him out of his field without him trying to jump on my head. He’s been lovely to handle at home but I’m not totally sure if that will carry over to the show environment. So if you see a giant chestnut streak galloping about with a little flappy rag doll on the end of its lead, that’d be us.

Midas is inspiring more confidence than I’d expected; the poor little chap has had so little saddle time but he’s been entered in show riding at Pre-HOY and hopefully will do show hack at HOY itself, too. But despite my initial misgivings, he’s pretty much there. Three good paces, simple changes, starting to connect himself nicely. Quite good enough for a first show at novice methinks.

can’t stop laughing

Sunè completes the lineup, and I do have some trepidation about her. Since I’m not able to ride two horses in one showing class she won’t be doing ridden at Pre-HOY, but I would really like her to be ridden at HOY so I can sell her easier. In-hand she’s also still very green and wobbly, but that at least should be OK. We’ll see what she’s ready for and take it at her speed.

Glory to the King.

Much Riding

So what’s the most logical thing to do when you wake up really sore one morning? Head off to Springs to ride some really huge horses, of course.

Al is not amused

With Module 4 and its “jump 85cm on a giant horse you don’t know” threat looming, I packed myself off to go get lessons from jump coach K. She promptly put me on literally the biggest horse I’ve even seen in like a year. I quailed, but he was a school horse so I climbed all the way up and off we went for such a productive ride. Kids, buy yourselves schoolmasters. This thing just jumped whatever he was pointed at, even if the pointing was done badly, in this steady ploppy rhythm that just got the job done so smoothly. I almost instantly forgot that he was huge and enjoyed the sensation of not having to micromanage.

Then I got to ride a super fancy ex-international eventer. I was scared I might break him, but instead he patiently humoured me while I delightedly pressed all his buttons. (Flying changes. Shoulder in. You guys. SO MANY BUTTONS.)

#celebselfie

Back home today, I was greeted with the consequences of pushing off to Springs for a morning – catching up on the sessions I’d missed. This meant twelve horses on my list today, which made my back hurt just to think about. But on the plus side I had the rare and deeply satisfying opportunity to ride every last one of my full-time training horses in one day.
Ten of them were excellent. We kicked off the day on a wonderful note with Exavior being just awesome. I only lunged him very briefly and he was forward but sane to ride. He did kick out in protest at my dressage whip once but neither my seat nor my confidence wobbled so we ended on the very high note of taking two (truly appalling) canter steps. We’re confined to the ring until his wolf teeth get taken out, but we’re sure making progress!

Then Arwen rode an excellent flatwork session, nailing her simple changes even on the long sides and offering some nice shoulder-in of her own, not to be outdone by no giant fancy international horse.

fancy fatness

Tara followed it up with being so relaxed and confident that we established a really nice forward trot including responsive, relaxed transitions. Her anxiety has been put behind her, it would seem. Unfortunately Zara now seems to be in the anxious, stuck-behind-the-leg stage but with quietness she’ll figure it out in a couple of weeks.

majestic ❤

Destiny managed to only nap violently once today, and gave me three gaits nicely lunging left and three gaits begrudgingly lunging right. We’re finally back in the right direction. Sunè has also made up her mind to use her powers for good; after a dreadful session on Monday she stepped up to the plate and did great in walk and trot, large and figures, in the big arena today. The canter isn’t there yet, but it’ll come.
Faithy has discovered that I have food. This momentuous revelation means that she now comes over to be caught and fussed over, although our training sessions mostly consist of me combing her (AMAZING) hair and cooing about how awesome she is.

like I said. AMAZING.

Then Magic and Lancelot just had to throw a spanner in the works. Lancey was plain not in the mood and decided to nap, resulting in a battle of wills; we’ll have to kiss and make up tomorrow. Magic wasn’t exactly bad but he was full of beans and jittery, which was hard to stay calm on. We popped a few fences and called it quits without picking a fight or having a meltdown, so I’m calling it a win anyway.
Midas succeeded in scraping the day off the floor and ending on a lovely note by jumping absolutely everything I aimed him at with poise and enthusiasm. This was only a tiny cross and a 30cm upright, but for his second jumping session ever, I’ll totally take it.

Crazy day, but God was with every breath. Glory to the King.

Exavior 2016 Goal Recap

Going into this year, I honestly thought Xave was going to be an unmitigated disaster. And he was, for a while. I have (obviously) gotten attached and couldn’t bring myself to sell him but he was threatened with being packed off to a lease home that liked his particular brand of crazy, because I sure didn’t.

Then he had his “brain surgery”. There is a reason why we call it brain surgery. Within two weeks the evil alter ego that charged, bit and trampled people seemed to evaporate and my big, dumb, sweet goofball was back in full force.

In terms of goals, almost all of these were achieved in the last three months. So that’s a win.

  • Bathing. Done! He hasn’t had a proper bath yet, but he gets hosed off after work and behaves like a grownup. Still moves around when his hindlegs get sprayed, but nothing that’ll prevent me getting them clean.
  • Loading. Done tolerably well for a horse that had a horrible boxing accident. He doesn’t like two-berths but he’ll box if someone gets behind him, even if he is sick and I am panicking (trust me, I know).
  • Continued improvement on injections. Well, he’s still an unholy terror to inject, but he hasn’t gotten up on his hindlegs in ages. Vaccinating is now relatively uneventful. Bigger shots require someone strong on the halter and a lot of local anaesthetic cream, but it is possible.
  • Lunging over poles. Nailed it. Slightly raised poles in all three gaits.
  • Introduction to small free jumps. He flomped over them up to 70cm in a disappointingly calm manner; I was hoping he’d do some Grand Prix jumper stuff and be all pretty.
  • Backing. Done! I got on, he went to sleep.
  • Basic aids in walk. We went one better. We have some rather floppy walk aids in a halter, and we have equally floppy trot laps of the ring.


This year’s high success is mostly due to the fact that our goals were freakishly low (like, I get this done on a sale pony in like 2 months maximum) but I’m nonetheless happy. Despite being vastly too much for me, he is quite on track for a barely three-year-old warmblood colt.
Next year is a little more serious. I’m setting goals as if he’s an ordinary horse I can handle, because right now he is acting like it, but that could change. And if it does, we’ll roll with it, even if I need to send him to the Mutterer for a few months. Exavior is worth it.

  • Continued improvement on injections. This is gonna be here for many years, I think. Just a slow process of not making a drama out of it might get us to some form of normality eventually.
  • Show in-hand without rearing. We are aiming for Horse of the Year in February, which may be a little ambitious but I guess we’ll find out! He behaves fine at home in the big field with other horses around, so it would be great if he’d stand and trot up nicely at the shows too, but as long as he doesn’t scare me I’ll be happy.
  • Hack. Even if it’s just to the big gate and back. This goal has me quaking in my boots but it’s gotta be there to make him a Good Citizen, although if it scares me too much I’ll pass. Some battles aren’t worth it.
  • By June, have 3 gaits. This isn’t a big ask for any normal horse, but Xave loves to push the boundaries of normal. I’m putting this here to keep it realistic. I don’t want to put pressure on, but I also don’t want to be stuck for ever with him. If he doesn’t have 3 gaits by June, he goes to the Mutterer.
  • Around his fourth birthday, attend a few training shows at walk/trot and Prelim. I so dearly would love to do YDHS in 2018 on him, and he needs to be solid at Prelim by February 2018 under pressure by then. The earlier we compete, the better.
  • Ultimate goal: be solid at Prelim by the end of the year.

This horse is nothing but a miracle so far. I hope my worldly plan for him is in line with God’s; but if it isn’t, then may God’s amazing and flawless plan prevail. I’m so excited to see what that is. Glory to the King.

Hearing Exavior

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in horsemanship is also the simplest: it’s all about listening.

I don’t know why there’s a fashion for calling a good trainer a horse whisperer. The best trainers are well versed in silence. Able to lay aside ego and knowledge for the deeper skill of openness. It’s less like an artist painting and more like a conversation between two sentient, thinking, feeling, created beings – which is exactly what it is.

I have been trying to listen. I’m still not terribly good and many horses are just a closed book to me. Often I just can’t get a read on them. Zara was because I had never really encountered her language before; Dirkie was because I was staring down the barrel of a deadline.

Exavior, I’m ashamed to say, is because I thought I knew better than he did. And here’s lesson number two: nobody knows better about being a horse than a horse does.


It went something like this.
“Whoa,” I ordered, closing my hands on the reins.

“No, I don’t really want to. It’s not comfy when you do that,” said Exavior, gaping his mouth dramatically.

“OK, so you don’t like the bit.” I swapped his French link for a single joint and then the single joint for a fancypants straight bar.

“Actually, it’s still not nice.” Xave gaped his jaw some more.

“Noseband, then?” I took it off completely.

“Nope. Still ugh.” He gave his head a little shake to punctuate his words.

I glared at him, nettled. I’d tried every bit I knew. His teeth had been done less than a year ago. I was good with my hands. I’d done the groundwork.

“You’re just being a brat,” I announced, stepping onto the slippery slope of deafness, and clapped a grackle noseband on him.

“This is worse! I hate this!” Xave started to shake his head and resist having the bridle put on.

Unrelated gratuitous weight gain collage

“Tough luck. Buck up, baby!” I locked my elbows, making my hands motionless as stone.

“It HURTS!” Xave pulled away while I was bridling him and bucked the length of the yard.

“Just STOP!” Voice and hands yelled together. Too loud for me to hear what he was saying.

Xave’s plentiful hot blood skyrocketed. He flung his head violently, almost yanking me out of the saddle. “NO! IT’S SORE!” Both forelegs left the ground for a moment and the adrenalin that kicked through me was just enough to jog my brain into remembering the eruption time for wolf teeth would be right about now.

Cowboy wisdom demanded I crank the grackle tighter and kick him till he submitted. Lacking a death wish, I slid to the ground instead, undid his noseband and stuck a thumb in his mouth, sliding it across the upper gum. Where there should have been a smooth curve of flesh, razor sharp tooth scraped against my skin.

He has two enormous wolf teeth.

“I’m sorry, buddy.”

The next day I rode him in a headcollar and he gave me two quiet walk laps of the ring, where the day before we barely made it across the middle before tantrums.

“I’m still sorry, dude.”

Xave’s big eye just sparkled mischievously. “I told you so.”

And that, kids, is how I started a gigantic warmblood in a headcollar – and vowed to never shout an honest horse down again.

Glory to the King.

Exavior Update

After finishing all Exavior’s groundwork in the beginning of the year, I turned him out somewhere in mid-March to go grow up. The dude was only two years old and had his saddle, bridle, long-lining and voice commands all in place; there was nothing left to do except get on, and his brain had cooked. So I forgot him in a field for six months. It was longer than I had intended, but that’s just how the logistics worked out, especially with him being a colt and starting to really act like it.

Then in the middle of September we squashed him into a horsebox (seriously, you guys, it is scary how much space he takes up in his partition compared to the ponies) and shipped him off to the vet’s to be gelded. This turned out to be a very impressive thing to see. I’m used to the rural vets, who sedate it, anesthetise it, lie it down and then tie up the legs very securely before they start any cutting. This vet did him standing, and it was amazing. Because the horse was actually still on his feet (and thus presumably could still kick if he was so inclined) it was virtually impossible to work on him if he could feel anything, so the whole experience was pretty much pain-free for him. The most traumatic part was putting a catheter in his vein because of somebody being incredibly needle-shy, but they got it done (and after seeing how much fun he was to inject, sent me home with a tube of local for next time I have to do it). It was all over and done in an hour and we could take him home.

For the next week, I had instructions to lunge him for 20 minutes twice a day. This on a horse that hadn’t even seen a lunge line for the past six months. My preparation, as you can clearly see, was woefully inadequate, but we got it done. I had to lunge him in the field because he was still quite the stallion and couldn’t be safely brought down to the ring amongst the mares, but he surprised me by being quite manageable. And within about six or seven days his attitude completely changed. Suddenly and magically, he was my quiet baby horse again. He didn’t bite, he didn’t fuss when you groomed him, he didn’t call to other horses and he certainly didn’t rear up in hand. You guys, there is a reason why they call it brain surgery.

By the end of the week we were bringing him in to the ring in a headcollar like a normal average horse, not a psychotic warmblood stallion. And even before then, I was on him. I hadn’t realised exactly how much I’d been wanting to look between those particular ears until I saddled him up again for the first time, and as it turned out he lunged quietly with the saddle so I clambered up. I can tell you that after backing Midas (13.1hh), the view from up there was quite different. It is a terribly long way down! But he was as quiet as they come. Probably one of the quietest I’ve ever had the first ride on.

exavior1
so much derping going on here I can’t even

In the next two sessions, the Mutterer assisted us with an amazingly simple quick fix (more on that later) to get Exavior to actually move, and then things were pretty much peachy. Within three more sessions we had whoa, go and turn without any drama. He does like to get stuck in reverse gear and wander backwards across the ring while I kick and kick, but I’ll take it over doing handstands any day. I was fairly convinced that this horse was going to kill me during his first rides so I am one hundred percent content with the miracle monster.

It’s incredible how quickly we bonded. We’d never been really close like this before, but the better he behaved the more I trusted him and the more I trusted him the more I actually had hope for our future together and the more I hoped the more effort I put into him and the better he behaved. Soon I was looking forward to our sessions instead of fearing them, and he was asking for ear scratches instead of trying to bite my arm off. It follows, of course, that just after I had fallen head over heels for this horse, he became suddenly and spectacularly ill. (This appears to be a requirement for all my own pet horses – Skye did it, Magic did it, and now this monstrosity has done it). Naturally, since it was my own horse, I the practical and coolheaded yard manager melted into a puddle of panicky mush. We rushed him to the vets, who gave him antibiotics and reassured me that my creature was not actually going to die. He brought it on himself, of course. If he would let us inject him he could have had more effective preventative antibiotics after his surgery and would probably never have gotten an infection, but he’s a horse, i. e. has the self-preservation of a lemming.

Either way, just as he got over his infection (like seriously, his first session back), he smacked his hindleg against the side of the lunging ring and lamed himself. Because horses. So he’s back on paddock rest again, but I have faith that he’ll be back in work before very long. And after that, well, with his miraculous journey so far, who knows where God will take us next?

Q2 Goal Review

So it’s a little late, but better late than never, right?

Nell

  • Qualify for the Provincials at the Young Horse Performance Series.
    – Done! We needed two completions and we have three. So we finished last at two of them (and won the last one! … OK, so nobody else showed up), but who cares? We’re going. The logistics are going to be a bit fun, considering finals are on the same day as the Jacaranda Nooitie show, but at least we can cross this off our list.
  • Compete, graded, at the higher Novice tests.  I’m calling this done. We did Novice 4 and 5 graded and Novice 6 at YHPS, which is a similar standard. We’ll continue to compete higher Novice for the rest of the year to get our grading points (one down, four to go).
  • Go to a jumping training show at a low level. Eh, maybe after YHPS. We at least can jump now, but every time I do a jumping training show I find myself with a horsebox full of kids and ponies, so we’ll have to see.
  • School lower level Elementary successfully. We’ve done most of the movements, but I’m not crossing this off until we’ve done a couple of complete tests at home.
  • Compete in any available Nooitgedachter shows.  In the process of doing! We’ve done two out of the three annual Nooitie shows and are tentatively aiming for the third one – with YHPS finals being on the same day, it’s a bit complicated.

Arwen

  • Go double clear at EV7o – Still aiming for this one. We did go double clear at a stadium event, but that doesn’t quite count. Our next full horse trial in August will be at EV60 to build our confidence, then we’re back at EV70 if it goes well.
  • School Elementary Medium 1 and 2 – We’ve done some of the movements, but not the full tests just yet.
  • Compete Elementary –  Not yet. We have most of our grading points and have happily schooled the level, so it’s just a matter of getting out there.
  • Gallop through water –  Done! At a schooling, not a show, but we came down a bank, through the water and over a fence without breaking rhythm.

Magic

  • Finish getting back the topline muscle he lost when he was sick.
  • School Novice 4, 5, and 6. We’re so close to finishing Novice 6, too. None of our tests are awesome – we’d be very hard put to get 60% – but all I want is for him to benefit from the flatwork schooling, so just doing the moves as well as we can is fine by me.
  • Make 90cm our comfort zone at home.  – We were so close! In fact we were popping 90cm at home and now we’ve taken it back down a few notches. It’s no fault of my precious Magic’s; he could probably do like 1.20m right now with his eyes closed. However he needs his nervous saddle monkey and after our little tumble a few weeks ago, I’m not there yet. So the journey goes, and so God makes something more amazing through His plan than anything I planned for.
  • Show graded at 70cm.
  • Show at 80cm, graded or training. –  We were close to this one, too! We may still do it yet. Magic certainly can. We just need a few confidence-boosting rounds at 70cm first.

Exavior

  • Bathing. –  There’s been improvement, but we’ll finish this up properly in the summer when he won’t hate me for spraying ice water on him.
  • Loading.
  • Continued improvement on injections.  Yay! He is still by no means an easy critter to inject, but we’re progressing. He just had his AHS shot and when my helper and I caught him he smelt a rat and went ballistic, but after about five minutes of reassurance, he decided that he wasn’t going to be injected after all so he stood perfectly still and didn’t even notice when I slipped the needle in. It’s all in his empty little brain. We’ll see how he does with his next shot in three weeks.
  • Lunging over poles.
  • Introduction to small free jumps.
  • Backing.
  • Basic aids in walk. –  Ugh, I so want to get on this horse now! His groundwork is done apart from poles and jumps. I literally just have to throw a leg over him and teach him to whoa, go and turn. But with his still being entire, working him isn’t feasible at the yard right now. As soon as the colt is a gelding we’ll bring him back and I’ll probably be able to finish this in a few weeks.

Taking every second of this year as it comes, hand in hand with the King ❤

April/May Recap

So April and May happened.

MS1
The Head Groom and Arwen, Bruno and I

There’s a lot to recap, so we’ll keep it short.

MS2
The matchy ladies winning their pairs class

Magic went to his second graded show; I made a whoopsie in the first class and landed feet-first in the oxer. Then I made exactly the same whoopsie in the second class and landed bum-first in the combination. Apparently one shouldn’t drop Magic at the scariest fence on course. Who knew, right?

Poor old Magic was unphased, albeit somewhat confused about why Mom had so suddenly dismounted. After a lesson and a mild scolding from my coach about the fact that perfect horses must be ridden perfectly, we went to a training show in May and jumped two perfectly clear rounds without batting an eyelash.

My confidence suffered only the most minor of knocks. Magic is that one horse that always has me smiling – even in this shot taken in the second class of our disastrous show.

Magic1
This horse ❤

Arwen went to Nooitie Nationals and proceeded to win every class she entered.

Arwen2
Showjumping at Fourways earlier in April (which she also won)

The showjumping. The dressage.

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Novice 5 like a boss

The pairs. And then, National Champion in hand.

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The Head Groom was handling

The only thing she didn’t win was the show riding, which she could have if she hadn’t had a violent head flip in the rein back. Well, we won’t be showing a rein back again… despite getting a 6.5 on the same movement in dressage.

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Silly beautiful mare

Nell also went to Nationals and raked in her fair share of ribbons. She won her in-hand class,

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Cuz judges like pretty floating ponies

the pairs, one of her two dressage tests, and the novice show hunter.

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With grass in her mouth, because that’s so showing-appropriate, y’know?

Then in May we went to Hollyberry Hall for the third leg of the YHPS and completed with 64%. As usual, we were dead last, but considering that the second-to-last horse had 64.1%, I won’t complain; she’s a pony with a green rider and she’s standing her ground amongst the best. Also, that’s a 4% increase from our last YHPS. I’ll take it!

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Good Nellie

Exavior was turned out to pasture to await being gelded, whereupon he will be brought back into work and backed. He put on an inch to reach 16.0 hands and became more gorgeous than ever.

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The pregnant fairies, Cherry and Milady, continue to glow with pregnancy. Milady was briefly brought back into work when she had a client interested in her and behaved impeccably for a 6yo thoroughbred that had been out of work for half a year, but sadly it was not to be. Or not sadly. I still get a cute baby in October, so maybe we shouldn’t complain too loud.

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Cherry (the Mutterer’s mare and evidence of his impeccable taste)
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Milady

Bruno went to his first show at Nationals and took everything in his stride. He loaded, travelled, and behaved perfectly. He only did in-hand, during which he was so relaxed that the ring steward had to hit him with a clipboard to make him trot up. Later in the weekend I hacked him around an empty warmup arena and he barely bothered to waggle his giant ears. He also did a few lessons with the smaller kiddies that are just off the lead and trotting on the lunge line. Albeit having slightly erratic steering, he proved to be as safe as a house and his slow steady rhythm was perfect for the tiny tots.

Lancelot had his first ride, a momentous occasion that turned out to be a non-event. He was very stuck with going forward when asked, but followed the Head Groom around with myself on his back without batting an eyelash. I was chagrined; I had expected some craziness from him, but he was as quiet as they come.

Big old Sookie’s tripping improved, so  we were able to move on to cantering. Her transitions were truly dreadful (ever tried flailing *and* being crooked *and* almost falling *and* crashing onto the forehand all at once?) but the canter itself is her best quality gait. We also shipped her out to Hollyberry Hall for a schooling session when we took Nell; she loaded great and travelled fairly well (a little anxious but very well behaved). At the Hall I took the precaution of lunging her – she is huge and I still don’t quite trust her not to fall on her nose if she decides to jump or spin – but it wasn’t necessary. She was looky, but sane, controllable, and totally nonviolent despite being in a big and quite spooky indoor. Good Sookie!

Whisper had her photo shoot done and was snapped up in short order. Before she went, we progressed to cantering on the correct lead and then to jumping. We even took her to her first show and did ground poles. The organisation and layout was terrible, so the round didn’t go too well, but despite being severely anxious Whisper didn’t get violent once. That’s a truly safe horse right there.

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Good girl Whispy

Finally, Liana jumped her first 70cm under me and came sixth in a massive class. In May, she also jumped her first 80cm with me and took a couple of poles but was brave to every fence.

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Pony got scope to burn

Then she did another 60 and 70cm at Nationals with her kid, snagging the National Champion Showjumper title without apparent effort.

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Such concentration!

She rounded off the show by jumping her first working hunter round, where she had a spot of bother at the straw bales but did not appear at all phased by the banks.

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BANK WHEEEEE

Another chaotic month at Morning Star Stables, and all our adventures for the glory of our King.

 

Week Recap – 2nd April

This week was filled with more sunny days and bright skies and unfortunately, admin. This is the side of yard management that nobody really likes, least of all myself. Although, if I’m honest, it does give one’s legs a welcome break.

This week we continued working on the little grid, making it progressively bigger and the one-strides longer and more challenging. We also added on another vertical set on a right turn from the grid on a long approach, which added an element of speed and then having to come back to a steady trot to reapproach the grid. This turned out to be a very good exercise for Magic, who was having something of a zoomy week. He was obedient through the grid even when he was feeling a little up – I guess the sudden cold snap had something to do with it – but schooling in the snaffle was a dismal failure. I had control, but that was about it. We flailed dramatically and had one enormous spook, then spooked again when I got left behind and snatched him in the mouth, ending up in a quivering heap on top of B.

The good part was that even though Magic was being a bit of a wild child, my confidence didn’t have a single wobble beyond the usual low-key nerves if he took a long spot. The dude and I have really built up an awesome connection. ❤

The fitter was also out and after tracing the shape of his back compared to the shape of it in July when she last came out, we were both startled by the transformation. He is much more symmetrical and much more muscular, although to her dismay, while his back came up, so did his wither. (This is the same horse that the fitter asked to photograph as an example of a challenging fit for her students…)

Poor old Arwen didn’t get as much attention as I would have liked this week. I jumped her once (which was fabulous – not a single stop over 85cm fences), gave her a lunge, took a nice hack and had a bit of flatwork schooling. At least she also had her saddle looked at. The fitter pronounced her fat and just did a little reflocking to accommodate the extra inch of roundness my 5-days-a-week, eventing, grass-only beast had  accumulated.

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Gotta love the office

Nellie worked her rather rotund behind off. The week was fairly easy, with flatwork, hacking, and popping through the grid (she is an incredibly wiggly and untalented jumper, but has a nice hunter rhythm), but then came the dressage lesson. Our fitter also happens to be a pro dressage lady, who has soundly kicked our bottoms on baby horses at the lower levels as well as dominating in the higher ones, and has the definite bonus of being likeable, so we took the opportunity to have lessons while she was out to fit saddles. We nearly died. Just because I like dressage does not mean that it isn’t painful. We did comparatively easy stuff – a lot of transitions and trot lengthenings and some canter poles – but it was intense and we were both dying. We were sent home to do lots and lots of poles to make Nell add more “jump” to her canter and articulate her hindlegs instead of just swinging them arond.

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So much of hard. Also neck.

Exavior wiggled himself back into my good books by loading once very well with neither assistant nor bum rope. He is such a puzzle but he can be so loveable when he quits jumping around on his hindlegs. He is, however, definitely a lot better to lead around other horses; we have to pass right by one of my pony colts on the way to the horsebox and this cheeky little colt tends to run over and squeal, but Xave ignores him flatly. The pony colt can probably fit under his belly, so I can hardly blame him.

Sookie settled nicely into her new routine this week, being calm and trainable in the arena at all three gaits even with a bit of wind making things quite spooky. She had one or two really silly little looks, but much less than she used to when she was younger. We did have one awkward mishap involving an H-F trot lengthen. It started as a lengthening at H right enough, then at X we started to trip, flailed, fell on both knees, lurched dramatically upright and as a grand finale I landed bottom first upon F. The little trip just went downhill, presumably because Sookie’s muscle tone and balance are poor at this stage. She is a big horse and doesn’t have the strength to hold herself up just yet, poor soul. Needless to say we shall proceed with caution and do lots and lots of basic strengthening exercises before we approach the show circuit – I have no desire to literally fall in a heap at X.

Little Bruno only did one day’s ring work, where we worked on getting solid canter for two laps of the ring each way. After that we climbed straight on and went to the big arena. We only worked in walk and trot, including walking over some ground poles without batting an eye, but he was excellent. The little guy is just a dream to handle – he learns what I teach, remembers what he’s learned, and doesn’t go in for theatrics.

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Ponies ❤

Lance’s SI area remains sensitive and he is consistently being lazy on the left rein, then zoomy on the right, so we are still going slow and redoing his basics to make them even more solid. He now loads like a real little champ, even out of sight of other horses, which is a challenge for him. To his utter delight, our new livery is a little yearling Arab that just wants to play. Lancey is the sweetest thing with his new buddy and he and Titan have a blast galloping around and making trouble together. He appears to have no difficulty moving in a straight line at great speeds around his paddock, at least!

While I wanted to put a few steps of canter in on Whisper this week, we never really got there. Whispy has never been ridden out in a large space before – her last home had a fenced arena of about 35x15m – and my unfenced grass arena proved to be a bit of a shock to the system. To her credit, she was never wild, not for a single step. What she was, was incredibly wiggly. My groom enquired if I had been feeding her moonshine while we wobbled from one side of the track to the other, tripping over dressage letters and her own feet. By the end of the week we at least had walk and trot in fairly straight lines in the big arena, though, so soon we’ll be back on track (pun intended). Whisper isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she definitely makes up for that with abundant patience, gentleness, quietness, and memory. She’ll make a fantastic first horse for some lucky junior, with her unicorn looks to match.

Stardust learned to load this week, which she did like she does everything, with a workaday, ho-hum sort of willingness. Don’t worry, Dusty, you’re not going anywhere. She also taught one of the kids to canter with great success; she’s still very sticky going onto the off lead, but on the near side, she’s very good.

Baby Thunder had a jumping session with me, popping through the grid with the verticals put up to about 70cm. He had some trouble maintaining his impulsion through the two quite long one-stride lines at first, but he got it eventually. He is just such a willing guy – he’ll go between the uprights every single time, even if he demolishes the fences in the process. Although in this session with me he was very careful and didn’t touch a single pole; I think the gymnastic exercise was good for him.

We rounded off the week with a successful day of outside lessons, including schooling one of my student’s super cool schoolmistress, Penny. Penny jumps whatever from wherever, although she can get a little insolent about being told what to do, having come to the reasonable conclusion that she can do it just fine herself, thank you. She remains a whole lot of fun.

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Change of scenery