Marching On

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.

Glory to the King.

all ready for tomorrow

So There Was This Training Show…

… and I kinda forgot to write about it. Two Sundays ago, a little spur-of-the-moment, we threw Vastrap and Jamaica into VT’s kid’s dad’s horsebox and went to Fourways. VT’s kid wanted practice for Finals, and I had to be there anyway so I figured I may as well ride.

Jamaica had had the whole week off, so I sort of centered him around on the Friday and then popped through a simple gymnastic line that happened to be up on Saturday and off we went. He was so good about everything, too. Good to box, got out and looked around and sort of shrugged indifferently, and when I threw him in a paddock and abandoned him, he merely smelt some poo and then ate hay. How cool is it to have a really easy, ordinary, uncomplicated horse? It’s a new experience for me and rather refreshing.


Then VT and his kid promptly had a brilliant, blistering round in the 60cm, winning by streets.

They got a bit flustered and had a pole in the 70cm, but it didn’t bother either of them much, so it didn’t bother me either. It was their first 70 this year and they’re only doing 60 at finals.
Jamaica just totally showed up to work that day. He was calm, relaxed, focused and absolutely point-and-shoot. We went faster than usual, too, and cut all the turns in the 70cm speed for 5th in a class of 26.

The 80cm didn’t even look big. He was careful and clear in the first round. In the jump-off he overjumped an oxer that really was rather big for the class and I took a second to get my act together on landing so we lost a few seconds making a squiggle to the next fence, but it was still good enough for 3rd out of 18. And I didn’t even hold the neck strap.


God is way too good to me. Glory to the King.

Small Victories

This week was… incredible.

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.

Thank You Father. Glory to the King.

Q2 Goals Recap

Oh, but first I must tell y’all that the kiddies are incredible!! But you knew that, right? We are taking FOUR ponies and their little riders to Gauteng Finals and I am so proud of them I might just explode. 😀 Best of all, my riders that didn’t make it to Finals are just as talented as those that did, so it’s only a matter of time before they get there, too.

So Liana, Vastrap, Zorro and Pennie have all made it and they are all going really very well, particularly Zorro (but don’t tell the other ponies I said that). Their kiddos have put in a lot of work this season and I’m so happy to see them being so richly rewarded. But of course we can’t lose sight of the real Reason why we’re here: they planted, I watered – and our Abba Father gave the increase.

Well, now back to goals. Let’s have a look.

Arwen

Arwen1a

  • Get points for Elementary Medium. Still chipping away at this! It’ll pick up now, hopefully, that we’re going to more dressage and fewer showing shows. Either way, last quarter we had two points, and now we have five. It is possible to get points one class at a time.
    Our Elementary work is slowly improving. The horse is starting to touch the limit of her physical ability (not necessarily her natural talent – but her ability combined with dodgy schooling due to being my first project ever when I was, like, 13) and I don’t think we’ll ever show seriously at EM, but there’s no reason why our Elementary can’t be solid. To be fair, though, the problem is more mine than hers. I flounder at the level. I don’t know what anything is really supposed to look like and I don’t have the opportunity for lots of dressage lessons, so the tests are basically our lessons. I even struggle to remember the longer tests. But it’s all a learning experience; my next Elementary horse will be better and this one is a whole lot of fun. Our next show is CHG Leg 5 in the end of August. We have eight weeks before then, including one week off and one week of test riding right before the show, leaving the remaining six weeks to work on our six lowest marks (shoulder-in left, walk-canter transition, medium-working canter transition, turn on the haunches, 20m circle with break of contact, rein back). One movement each week. It will take an art to keep this from stealing the joy of the dance, but one breath at a time, God is taking over the artist inside me.
  • Don’t mess up a show riding/show hack class. 
  • Jump a graded 80cm round.
  • Do some cross-country lessons and/or go drag hunting. I doubt hunting will be on the calendar this year, but we might just make it to xc lessons at President’s Park. Which would be absolutely fabulous (and disgusting preparation for our August show, but whatevs).

Arwen is laying the foundation of my own education. If I ever do go up the grades (and that’s really up to God; my dance with Thunder on Sunday showed me that it’s not the level that matters, but the threefold cord) nobody will remember Arwen – but I will. Because she went first, and she paved the way.

As we start to see 2018 on the horizon, I am also pondering a foray into another discipline with her next year. Part of me just yearns to go event again, but another part can’t justify the expense for a discipline the horse won’t excel in. Probably showing. Maybe it’ll be time to gird up my loins and face my fear of showing judges.

Exavior

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we all still miss him

As y’all know by now, I had to make the decision to sell the big guy. He’s with a trainer in Brakpan right now (something I’ve been too raw to write about – the trainer is lovely and I know he’s a lot happier with a job to do, and God sent that miracle for us just like He’s sent everything else in Exavior’s life) and hopefully he’ll met his person soon.

Midas

Midas1

  • Hack alone and in company. Done! With a child on board (in company), too. He loves his hacks.
  • Be quiet at shows. 
  • Compete up to 70cm showjumping at training shows. Still winning at 60cm (and kinda bored at the level, too) but I don’t think I should make him haul my heavy behind around 70cm. He pops around it at home with kids, and he has a new little partner to finish bringing him on, so as soon as little partner is ready, we’ll do it.
  • Compete up to Prelim at training shows.
  • Compete at the Nooitie shows. We did all the ones that seem to be happening this year, and he came home with some ribbons, too.
  • Go cross-country schooling. Fingers crossed for this month!

Faith

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  • Stand for grooming and farrier.
  • Lead and tie up. 
  • Box well. Almost almost there – we can box without a bum rope, but with cookies and with some hesitation.
  • Be good to bath. 
  • Be good to catch. 
  • Show in-hand. Spring Show was cancelled, but we’ll probably send in a video for the E-Show in August because then at least nobody can tell me I have a hairy yak in person, right? She behaves nicely in-hand, trots up and stands square, just needs a polish.
  • In spring, lunge.
  • In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.

Ah, the joys of the long and dull two-year-old year while your precious, promising creature’s withers slowly catch up to its behind. She is wonderful though. I can’t wait to sit on her.

Jamaica

Jamaica11

  • Hack reliably in company. We haven’t hacked much, with most of the focus on jumping, but he’s never put a foot out of line in walk and trot – I’m quite happy. I still wouldn’t lead a long hack on him… but to be fair, I’ve got hacking nerves, so I wouldn’t lead a long hack on anything very much except Arwen (and Trooper).
  • School Novice dressage. As evidenced by the appearance of a topline, he’s carrying himself a LOT better. Still not brilliant, but to be fair to him, with his body shape and previous schooling brilliance on the flat is going to be a lot to ask. We have most of the Novice 1 to 4 work down. Trot lengthenings and free walk are still a sticky point. His canter work is lovely.
  • Jump 90cm graded. Heading that way; we’re doing 80cm at shows and popping over the odd 90cm height/width fence at home. The horse can do it – he just skips along. It’s my nerves that are the problem and that’s just going to be a step-by-step process.

So grateful for the spotty one – he has done so much for me already, and continues to do so much with every session.

Lancelot

Lancelot1

  • Reliably do long hacks alone, in company, and wherever without any drama his kid won’t laugh off. Very, very close to finishing this one – we haven’t been on a super long hack yet, but he’s done 45 minutes or so in w/t/c, even with a novice rider. He’s lovely.
  • Do a training show or two at Prelim dressage. Done! With 65% and 67.3% in Prelim 3 and 4, too.
  • Consistently jump graded at 70cm, preferably clear. He’s completing his 70cm rounds, but he still has the odd stop that he likes to throw in, and I just want him to be rid of that habit. I’m not too worried about poles – that’s just greenness in his body. I just want him to hunt down the fences.

Lancey is so close to being handed over to Z-kid for good. He just needs to be a little braver at shows.

Trooper

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  • Do training showjumping shows, up to about 60cm. He is still struggling to figure out that jumping is a thing, but he’s very sweet about it.
  • Do training dressage shows, up to Prelim.  Schooling Prelim at home all right.
  • Be as safe as a house on hacks, mostly in company.  You could literally be a one-armed two-year-old with ADHD and hack this thing out without being in any danger.
  • Be as safe as a house on the ground. Just need to box, then we’re good.
  • Be fully quiet at shows. We haven’t been on an outing yet, but I’m aiming for August.

I’m hoping we’ll be able to afford to do all the competing we’re hoping for – the sale ponies often end up a bit sidelined in favour of the more lucrative training horses. That said, I’ve given him six weeks off anyway. He’s three and a half and has all the basics; I can’t expect a whole lot more from him right now.

Thunder

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Thunny spent the first half of the year competing under K at SANESA, but their season is done now, so it’s  time he and I started to get our duckies in a row.

  • School all the Novice work, ready to compete next year. Our Prelim is solid; the only movements we have a little trouble with are halting (steady and straight but not square), stretchy trot, and lengthenings, all of which are Novice work anyway. He’s played with leg-yields, counter canter and simple changes, but I expect difficulty with lengthenings, so this goal will start with strengthening the basic gaits first.
  • Jump 70cm courses with confidence. Anybody can see that he’s no showjumper, but he’d make a really fun working hunter once he’s settled at shows. Since I drag Arwen to HOY anyway, I don’t see why he shouldn’t come along and plop around the in-hand, show hunter and working hunter.
  • Do our pre-flatwork short hacks calmly. These are hit-and-miss at the moment. He’s either perfect, or he sees a terrifying sparrow and bolts. He has a proper Friesian bolt too – no bucking, but practically impossible to stop except by means of a vicious one-rein, which I don’t really want to do to him. I don’t want to get killed either though, so he’ll have to have a few until he learns that whoa means whoa.

Onwards and upwards. Glory to the King.

Moving Forward

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.

SANESA Q4

Last qualifier of the year, and we found ourselves having a weekend full of exceptional performances from our faithful steeds.

he’s so good even his halo is straight and narrow

St. Vastrap was his reliable self, despite putting in a cheeky stop during a practice last week – most unlike him. He and his kid blasted around the speed for a third place, then had an unlucky pole in the competition for seventh. They’re going to finals!
This little team has everything they need to go to Nationals, but VT’s kid will need to up her game in terms of focus in the arena itself and riding the plan we work out. All part of growing as a very hard-working and promising little athlete, riding a pony in a million.

Zorro and Z-kid had a wonderful qualifier, thanks to huge personal growth and super riding from Z-kid, which has resulted in Zorro going better than he ever has. They had a silly pole in the competition, but came back strong for fourth in the speed, then jumped a lovely clear for second in the working hunter. They’ll also be headed for finals in working hunter if I have it right.

Liana and her kid had by far their best show yet, even if that didn’t earn them any ribbons. Ana was the quietest she’s been and kiddo rode very well. Pony overjumped an oxer in their first jumping class, sending kiddo onto her neck, but they recovered well, just getting penalties for circling. A mature decision from the rider, as it was the only way to negotiate the next fence safely. They were clear in the ideal time, but – get this – too slow for a place. Up till recently, Ana didn’t know slow was a thing.

Continuing on the quiet and well-behaved theme for the day, Liana was wonderful in the prix caprilli and kiddo rode so accurately, getting 67.72% and third place.

old photo because I have no media and also because he’s so handsome

K and Thunny were busy winning their equitation test when the GPS malfunctioned and they jumped the same fence twice in fine style. A bummer for K, but she handled it with enormous grace. They upped their dressage score, too, getting 59.16 and 62.5 despite all the monsters beside the arena. I think we finally have the leads mastered.

Lullaby and the tiny tot rode in the midst of great chaos – I was riding dressage as their course opened for walking. Usually I’d have K walk with her, but tiny tot speaks no English and K speaks no Afrikaans, so yeah. I watched the kid before us and then dragged Lulu around in more or less the right direction, and tiny tot wasn’t worried (her poor parents were less blasè about it), so it added up to a positive experience but she was out of the ribbons. I think we could have done better, but I also think I can’t teleport. Such is SANESA. I would happily have skipped Midas’s test but I can’t let Lancey’s young owner down so there you have it.

Speaking of Midas pony, he wasn’t really on his game this weekend, but to be fair to him the errors we had in showjumping were mostly my fault. I feel sorry for him dragging my fatness over fences so I don’t really jump him myself at home, and I kept panicking and chasing him at distances he didn’t have to try and make. We had two poles in the speed and one in the ideal time, but he was dead honest. So we didn’t get our showjumping goals of going clear but I’m not worried. Pony is a bit bored at the height too, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Dressage was in the most appalling location – the arena appears to have been cut right out of a wood of young poplars, and the wind was howling, causing the whole thing to rustle and wave about most alarmingly. Midas never actually jumped but he was drifting, tense, and hollow in that corner. Having five minutes to warm up didn’t help either. Still, we had 65 and 67.5, so that’s not horrible. Maybe at finals I can finally warm the poor chap up for a change.

Not warming up at all worked brilliantly for Lancey, however. K saddled him up, led him to the show arena, and held him while I rode the test on Midas; Lancey’s warmup consisted of walking around to the judge. He greatly exceeded my expectations. I thought he’d be dreadful, what with the howling bush monsters and all, but he actually just had a little look as we walked around and then paid them no attention at all. He was so focused, probably because I hadn’t had time to cook his brain beforehand. He tied first with Midas in the second test with 65% and had 67.3% in the first one.

His jumping was improved albeit still rather erratic. He had a pole and a stop at the combination in the first class, once again, but this time I jumped the first element again and thus we finished with the eight penalties. The second class had the most dreadful fillers throughout and I quickly scratched my goal of getting no stops – everything was stopping. I’d be happy just to get him round. Sure enough he had one stop at number four, but to my amazement it was because of a wiggly approach and really had little to do with the fillers. He didn’t look at a single thing for the rest of the track. It was a huge lightbulb moment for him. “Oooh, all I have to do is jump the jumps!” Ya think, Lancey?

I was VERY impressed with the little chap. He tries so hard.

another old photo, but at least now he has a loin

Last but not least, Jamaica in the 80cm. After the debacle we had last time, I wasn’t sure whether or not to expect an utter disaster. He felt forward in the warm up but that could have been my imagination. We did about four thousand canter-walk transitions after the jumps, then went in to the course with all the scary fillers, white-knuckled and white-faced. I nearly died when he had a big look at number one and all I could get my frozen limbs to do was feebly wave my stick, but he jumped. Then after that it was just perfect – from Jamaica, anyway.

I hung on his face and made him canter as if we were doing flatwork, adding strides with wild abandon, burying him to fence after fence and every single time he patiently tucked up his little black knees and popped over without any fuss. I don’t know how, but he didn’t even take a pole. No bucking, no running away, he just sweetly hauled my sorry behind around like the quiet old packer he actually really isn’t – a six-year-old remedial problem horse with a sketchy background.

Who’d have thought it? Eighteen months ago he was somersaulting over a fence and breaking his shoulder. Six months ago he was handstanding his child off and breaking her shoulder. One month ago he was bucking and bolting. Today, he is helping, fence by willing fence, to lay the bricks that repair my potholed, ripped and ruined path to riding confidence. Who’d have thought it? I sure didn’t!

Above all we ask or imagine, my God is faithful, my God is powerful, and my God – oh, you have no idea how my God is in charge!

Glory to the KING!

SANESA Q4 goals

With the last of the SANESA qualifiers on the horizon, I’m going to try something new. I’ve always got goals in my head for each show, but let’s put them on paper (in a manner of speaking) and see how they turn out. It’s an exercise I’m encouraging my teenage riders to do, so I’d better lead by example, eh?

Midas

Midas1

Last show: SANESA Q3 (20-21 May)

  • 60cm A2 speed – clear 1st
  • 60cm ideal time – clear 1st
  • Prelim 3 – 60.8%
  • Prelim 4 – 68.4%

Midas performed better than I could have asked for at his last show. While he was tense through his first test due to having a short warmup, he still had a decent score, and improved on it for a personal best in his second test.

SANESA Q4

  • 60cm A2 speed – go clear and cut some turns
  • 60cm ideal time – go clear and in a nice rhythm on the right lead
  • Prelim 3 and 4 – show an improved score, depending on warmup circumstances

 

Lancelot

Lancelot1

Last show: SANESA Q3 (20-21 May)

  • 60cm A2 speed: 2 poles, one stop – TE
  • 60cm ideal time: clear, unplaced

Lancelot had a gimpy first round, but was brave to all of the fences and remained calm and under control. He came back strong for his first clear round in ages.

SANESA Q4

  • 70cm A2 speed: don’t get eliminated
  • 70cm competition: don’t get eliminated (and try not to stop)
  • Prelim 3 and 4: don’t get eliminated

Goals are easy things when your horse is a total baby.

 

Jamaica

Jamaica11

Last show: SANESA Q3 (20-21 May)

  • 80cm A2 speed: bolted, bucked and had a circle in an attempt not to die
  • 80cm competition: double clear, 1st

Jamaica was a total lunatic last time and very naughty, but he did jump everything I asked him to without hesitation. We did lots of work on brakes this month and hopefully it’ll stand us in good stead.

SANESA Q4

  • 80cm A2 speed: keep calm and don’t stop
  • 80cm competition: keep calm and don’t stop

 

Overwhelmed by grace to get to take these partners into the show ring once again. Glory to the King.

Some Highlights

Y’all know the drill by now: it was madness. Indeed it was. A happy mad jumble of riding, volunteering, lessons and challenges. I’m just going to go down my camera roll and blather. It’s something, right?

Thunder continues to work on the most basic things, most of which he’s already mastered, but with the whole year to do Prelim I aim to do it excellently. If I’d only worked harder on Arwen at Prelim I wouldn’t have to keep filling in holes at Elementary, and I won’t make the same mistake with this chap. And he’s soaking it up like a gigantic amiable sponge. Because it doesn’t hack and I generally don’t jump him, I’d think he’d get so bored he’d fall over. But he likes it; for all his behind-the-leg-ness, he’s got the most amazing work ethic.

We’ve sorted the right and left bend thing and stretched the trot. Now we’re concentrating on the quality of his canter. I’m teaching him to go and carry me powerfully forward with my leg completely off and today he had moments of tremendous power between my leg and hand. The stuff of goosebumps; dancing with my horse and my King.

Simple moments like these with my brave old charger light up my day. So blessed to still have her gracing our fields with full vim and vigour at her age.

The remains of a hapless blanket after the wind blew it into Magic and Xave’s field and the two of them shredded it. Luckily neither of them take blankets off each other, but blankets on the ground are apparently fair game.

Ashy is now at the point in her rehab where she can be ridden. She’s a total joy and now walking for ten minutes a day under L.

Rising star E had her first few lessons on Lisna, who does not disappoint. It took E a while to get used to Lisna’s tremendous stride but now they’re looking more harmonious.

She’s a lovely, big, quality mare and she gives me goosebumps –

– and E the kind of smiles we don’t see from our teens too often. These are the moments when I can taste God’s purpose for us.

Blizzard’s lunging is improving, although his first session on the long lines was less inspiring. He does take the bridle a lot easier than he used to.

My scared little kid has had such a terrible setback for no apparent reason. Such is phobia. We’re back to grooming, and Lady Erin is the only one with feet small enough for kiddo to lift by himself.

This is Savanna, our new TB (and by “our” I mean “a teenager’s”). She is only six but conducts herself like a quiet old hand. Sorry for the ribs, we’re covering them up. I don’t think she’s seen so much hay in her life – she’s apparently glued to the bale. First time I’ve ever seen a horse roll and eat at the same time.

This TB don’t need no more fattening. It’s getting embarrassing. His new psychological happy place is translating into a physical throughness and relaxation I’ve never felt before. It feels great.

Eagle has mostly been hacking and he’s lovely. He can have the odd stop and gawp at things, but never anything dramatic. He and Lancey went out with L and I, and both were totally relaxed. I even canter him around a bit on hacks and I’m not big on cantering outside on babies, but Eagle inspires confidence.

It was cold. Our dogs are spoiled. Photo captured in the split second between Ice sitting up and Ice becoming a blur towards the door.

Savanna was not amused by my offers of balancer; I had to mix it with grass pellets to get her eating. I’d say “gotta love thoroughbreds” only Faith did exactly the same.

My mighty dragon had gone through such a bad patch in terms of bend and connection that I called the chiro because she was so stiff through her neck (around C3). Of course, the day after I made the appointment, she suddenly went fifty times better. There’s still a hint of tightness there so we’ll see what the chiro says.

I sat on Skye for the first time in two or three years, the 40m from the stables to her fields, on a crazy little whim. She nearly launched me to Timbuktu but decided against it at the last moment. There’s such a fire in that horse’s soul.

Trooper has been wonderful. He figured out basic contact and connection so sweetly and is completely reliable on hacks alone and in company. Jumping, sadly, is another story. He’ll go between the uprights, he’ll even try leave the poles up, but he doesn’t really get that he can actually, you know… jump. He’ll figure it out when he’s ready.

I wuv him

Jamaica and I had a very stern discussion about brakes and now his willing attitude has slowly restored my nerve. He’s so good about jumping and listening most of the time, but some of the basics are really still missing. Lots of gymnastics and exercises in this one’s future.

I left Nugget’s halter off this morning. I think I’ll be able to catch her tomorrow… but I couldn’t cope with the rubbing and scruffiness anymore. She followed me afterwards and let me pet her without chewing my arm off or anything, so that’s hopeful.

Every morning I start with Nugget, and the whole time I’m grooming her, Faith marches up and down the fence and nickers to me. I think it’s just for the cookies she gets to stretch with, but it gives me the warm fuzzies either way.

Happy old farts: Skye (somewhere in her mid to late 20s) and Benjamin (rising 21). Both my seniors, both looking amazing. I hope I look like that when I’m their age in horse/donkey years.

look look my legs are long (when pony is 13.1)

Midas is mostly jumping with the kid, and I do the dressage. I’m somewhat giddy on the 68% we got last time and I really hope things pan out in such a way that we can get more of a warmup and score even better in two weeks’ time.

Lady Erin is well on her way to becoming a good citizen. She leads nicely, ties up, is lovely to groom, and stands for the farrier. Next topics: shots and loading.

I’m hoping this kid and Midas might become a permanent partnership. Their personalities and abilities are well suited, but she did have trouble getting him to go forward. Methinks the leg aids are higher up than he’s used to. We’ll keep trying and see how it goes; he’s been very safe.

Tried to get a selfie with a Night Fury and an overgrown puppy.

Failed.

Also tried to get a picture of my three dance partners all lined up from biggest to smallest, but they kept following me and mugging me for treats. Love them anyway, or maybe because.

African sunrises and the love of horses. I am terribly loved.

Glory to the King.

Two Weeks’ Recap

I’m a little overdue. But here goes – pictures and ramblings, the norm.

Skye is still the reigning queen of the yard, and doubly content to have Lady Erin to babysit. Plopsie herself can now walk around her field on a lead without a bum rope, although there have been one or two warmblood hissy fits. Luckily this warmblood is like 13.1 right now so those were easily dealt with.

Jamaica went hacking, babysat by Ash, who knows the routes well from her daily hand-walking. Hopefully we’ll be having a little sit on Ash to see how she feels next week.


Fluffy pony cuteness. ❤

Followed by Trooper packing the fairly novice L along on a hack on a horrible windy day. He didn’t turn a hair. I don’t think he knows how.

Winter came. Cherry got a blanket, and David disappeared into the hay. Cherry has since gone back to the stud farm to run around in a gigantic field, which should be good for her poor sad racehorse guts. It’s a bit sad to see her go. She’s been dealt a difficult hand in life so far, but it is to be hoped things will continue to look up for her.

David, however, is here to stay. He orginally arrived in winter 2015, a project from one of the Mutterer’s clients to be schooled and resold. I rode him for a bit and then it became evident that he’d been so abused that his mental and physical scars made schooling dangerous and unfair. I took him off the market and sort of quietly took over as many expenses as I could, hoping his owners would forget him. They did. He’s safe now.

I want to sell Lady Erin but she looks like a donkey right now. Just an ugly growth spurt – she’ll be gorgeous again soon enough.

Arwen’s early morning rides take on a sort of crystalline clarity in winter. We’ve been working on suppleness, both lateral and longitudinal, despite my lapse in motivation due to having no shows to go to until the end of June. It’s an opportunity to school without being tied to a certain test, so I’m trying to take advantage of it.

Apparently, mist can do this. I’ve lived here seventeen years and I still haven’t seen all the simple miracles of cloud and sky that God pulls out effortlessly, all the time.


It also does this, with the beloved dressage arena providing a suitable foreground.

I played with Blizzard for extra exercise on the days the Mutterer wasn’t here to work him. He’s almost the carbon opposite of Eagle – a little stubborn,  quite unreactive, doesn’t canter too well but trots really well. A sturdy sort of chap so far, though. Just not with the willingness of Eagle.


We had a school visit from a horde of first graders. Stardust suffered them with typical grumpy grace.

This is Lisna, who’s come in Cherry’s place. She’s a Nooitie mare with drool-worthy bloodlines and wonderful looks, here to be schooled and resold by one of my rising stars, E. She’s still in quarantine so I only really know her to wave to, but soon she’ll join the lesson program.

My course building skills continue to slowly improve. This was our practice course for SANESA, and while limited – I can only do so much with a hillside, twelve poles and some uprights – it rode quite nicely.

Lancey is coming along just fine. He hacks out fairly reliably, we’re aiming to do some dressage at the next SANESA, and he is now very willing and bold over fences – if a bit careless.

Destiny went on his second and third hacks. I wore my body protector, anticipating a hair-raising experience, but so far, so good. Not even looky, except today when we encountered the maize fields for the first time and things got a little interesting for a few seconds. Luckily he has a wonderful mouth so I can hold him no matter how spooked he gets. He seems to like hacking better than working in the arena.

Lancey is teaching Z-kid some dressage, because Zorro sure ain’t gonna.

Afternoon hacking with novice kiddos. Agony on the feet, healing for the soul. ❤

We introduced Ashy to a field of buddies – Milady and Nugget. Both are laid-back mares with little concern for where they end up in the pecking order, and so far they’ve been a calming influence. Milady just politely ignores Ash’s rampagings because they’re rather beneath her. Poor Nugget bore the brunt of her rage but she gets out of the way and they seem to have come to an understanding.

I’m working on taking Nugget’s halter off and putting it on after every grooming. I hate leaving it on. She’s got such a rub (hair only) on her nosey. But it beats never being able to get hold of her again for shots/treatments/grooming so on it stays until I know I can catch her reliably without it.


Did I mention the hacking out here is incredible?

Best framed by these dragon ears, of course.

Dragons keep having to stop for the lesser mortals to catch up. This hill is very steep and rocky but Arwen just power-walks up it without a single misstep while I kinda throw the reins at her and hope she knows what she’s doing.

Midas is getting better and better on hacks too, both solo and in company. This was a solo hack on a very blustery day and I took a spooky route on purpose – woods, maize fields (which make a dreadful racket in the wind), next door’s feral ponies – and he just chugged right along happy as a bird.

Faith is standing a field eating grass and waiting to be old enough to ride. She gets brushed and stretched and takes some selfies and that’s about it. Not a whole lot more you can do with a two-year-old that knows most of the basics.

I don’t have pictures of Eagle this week, but he’s been very nice. K has been schooling him and I hack him. He went on his first solo hack yesterday and he was lovely – a little spooky at one point, but he never actually jumped, just had a look and a big snort. The rest of the time he plodded on a loose rein, half asleep.

As for this wonderful animal, he’s living the life of the semi-retired pet and starting to look it. The teff hay has been a little too good for him, methinks. I’ve never seen him so fat in my life. Of course, by semi-retired I mean he now works 3-4 days a week instead of 5-6, and usually it’s just farting around aimlessly or lunging when I’m not up for even that, but he likes it. I like it. And if he doesn’t deal on the day, he doesn’t have to.

He does get some pent-up energy though, never released when I’m on board, but lunging has been rather interesting of late. I think some more cantering is in his immediate future.

Glory to the King.

Show Photos

HOY pics by Meilleur Ami Photography; SANESA pics by CanterPix

Prepare to be spammed: I have been holding off on show photos despite being something of a media junkie, and then the SANESA photographers were cheap and good, and then the HOY photos arrived, and now I just have so many pretty pony pictures.

First up, HOY. Because this photo might just be my favourite one of Arwen to date. This was the general breed show hack class that we almost placed in because this horse is amazing.

Arwen1a

You won’t believe how much work went into this picture or how freaked out I was. Totally worth it.

Now for Midas at HOY.

Midas1a

His connection was still so dodgy here.

Midas2a

It was so nice to be able to see the judge past the horse for a change.

And then Sunè at HOY, being grand champion in her class of one, but taking the opportunity to exhibit her bombproofness anyway.

Sune1a

And now for SANESA, starting with adorkable Lancey.

Lancelot1
ah, the graceful Arabian

One day he’ll know what legs are for and become more photogenic.

Midas doesn’t need to learn anything about what knees are for.

Midas1

Or anything about being photogenic.

Midas2

And now I present to you one naughty Appaloosa being buried to a lot of fences…

Jamaica2
love this angle
Jamaica5
so I kinda like the deep spots and he is tolerant
Jamaica7
also he tolerates me hanging on his poor face
Jamaica8
hunting the next fence
Jamaica11
somebody wants to jump bigger (clue: not me)
Jamaica10
good boy Maica

Too blessed to express. Glory to the King.