Pony Kisses

There are horses who do everything they can to avoid us; horses who live with us quietly because they don’t feel like they have a choice; horses who live in terror of us; horses who tolerate our presence; horses who don’t mind having us around provided we have carrots; and a rare few who genuinely enjoy human interaction.

And then you get some horses that like people better than horses. Or perhaps you only get one – I’ve only ever met one, anyway.

Long-term blog readers will recognise a little grey Arabian gelding named Lancelot. He came to our yard on New Year’s Day 2016, the third livery we ever had. I started him that year for his kid and competed him through most of 2017, doing some jumping and dressage. He was one of my all-time favourite horses ever: not the most mentally engaged little chap, but as good and kind and genuine as they come.

Lancey also had his fair share of quirks. He was slow to mature mentally, always distractable, and much more interested in drooling on your shoulder than actually doing anything. We fooled around with gentle work for almost two years before, one day at a show, his little ears suddenly went up and his tail flagged and I felt the light bulb go on. Oh, this is what I’m supposed to do! Nothing could stop him on a jumping track ever since; I handed him over to his kid and he jumped everything in sight. She competed him throughout 2018 and the only elimination he had was for jumping a random fence sideways in the jump-off.

Silvern Lance

Lancey’s upbringing was something of a unique one. He was the first offspring of English import Silvern Lance, a mostly Crabbet stallion who also happens to be one of the kindest and most generous horses you will ever meet in your life. His dam, Al Shama Pamirah, came from old endurance lines and also failed to have any milk for little baby Lancelot. The breeders hand-raised him, and he grew up into something of a gigantic puppy.

Unlike many orphans, though, Lancey didn’t grow up to be a socially crippled monster. He was still living in a herd and so he has all the social skills he needs. He just chooses not to use them. He lives in a big field with a large group of others, who tried to pick on him at first, but boss mare Arwen took him under her wing and protected him for a while until the others left him alone. Now, he peacefully coexists, but most of the time you’ll find him grazing off in a corner by himself. Happy as a clam, just not involved with the group.

But when a human being sets foot in the field, he’s the first to come gambolling over, with his funny little Arab tail over his back.

It’s hard not to be happy when you’re being drooled on by Lancey. He’s a truly happy, friendly, sweet guy who just wants to be your friend. He goes out of his way to spend time with people as part of his herd, and while it’s not very normal, it’s certainly good for the human soul.

Lancey’s people ended up going through something of a hard patch. And so, at a time when I really shouldn’t have another mouth to feed, I’ve found myself with another horse. Another dream of a horse: a beautiful, well-bred white Arabian with a heart of gold.

I don’t know where God is going with this. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep him. I don’t even really know what I’ll do with him if I do keep him. For now, everything happens one ride, one cuddle, one glob of friendly pony drool at a time.

Glory to the King.

Fourways Training SJ and XC

I looked at my list of horses for this show and thought, “Six horses, six riders! What a lovely, relaxed show,” and then contemplated how six riders felt like about a million at SANESA this year. One does get used to things – and better at managing them.

Early sunrises also help; it was broad daylight when we loaded up our six horsies and hit the road for Fourways. For once we were late and had to hurry frantically to get the first two horses and kids ready, but we made it happen. Mercifully ground poles don’t exactly require a strenuous warm up.

Savanna and her kid were doing their first jumping show together. I had my trepidations, but with me being firmly on the ground with them, I knew I’d be there to catch if anything went wrong. I also had Lancelot’s tiny kid on the end of a lead and thus off we went.

Lancelot was, of course, fantastic. I jogged madly, he trotted peacefully beside me, and the little kiddy had a blast. She even remembered most of her track.

I expected a little of the old running backwards drama from Savanna and thus led her in, but once the bell went and her kid kicked her on, she was super. Forward and relaxed, trotted over every pole. She had one little spook, but her kid stayed on and they also remembered their course for a clear round, to the kid’s great delight.

He finished his show nicely with a second round in the 40cm. Savanna was more relaxed by this point and trotted around very peacefully. A confidence-building experience for them both.

Next up was Liana and her kid, Milady and K, and Savanna and I in the 50cm. Liana cheekily stopped at the scary carrot jump, but otherwise had a lovely controlled and smooth round. Milady circled because her steering broke at one point and K had to reinstall it briskly between fences, but she was very brave to every single fence.

Savanna was a bit of a loon. As soon as we started to canter, the sweet horse that packed her kid around was gone, and her pulling, rushing, headshaking alter ego had returned. She rushed a bit and almost threw a cheeky stop at one fence, but we made it around with a pole (or two, I don’t remember). It was her first proper round without any stops, though, so I was happy with that.

The 60cm was more of the same, but with the addition of Lancelot and his big kid, J (Zorro’s kid). Milady had a very green but honest pole down and was well ridden by K, Savanna was a little quieter for another pole down. Liana and her kid jumped double clear, even cutting some turns in the jump-off for fourth place. Lancey was doing his first show under J and J was definitely a bit nervous, but they bounced around beautifully clear for second place.

In the 70cm it was J and Lancelot for it, and they both knocked it out of the park. Lancey loves J and his whole body lit up with happiness as he charged around, quick and clear, winning the class without even trying. J was all smiles. I can’t think of a happier end to Lancey’s last year in training with me.

Then J came back on Zorro and did their first 80cm with an unlucky pole down. Zorro was so good, brave and forward, and J rode him great despite her nerves.

Jamaica and I were up next with our second 90cm. Fourways can always be counted on to build a track that’s fair to the horse but definitely up to height, and the main thing I was grateful for was that it was an accumulator so I only had to survive eight fences. I needn’t have worried. Jamaica was so, so good. I aimed and looked for something vaguely resembling a distance and he jumped everything beautifully for a slow clear round.

Work done, J and I headed down to the cross-country course on Jamaica and Zorro, and proceeded to have half an hour of the best fun you can have on a horse.


Jamaica was superb. A little spooky to start off with, and I tapped him into one or two of the fences, but he jumped nicely without a lead. We did lots of logs, little oxers, a combination, a fairly solid corner, a skinny between two trees, banks up and down, an A-frame, and two little ditches with rails over them. I showed him the ditches and the corner but expected him to jump everything else on the first go. He was looky at a few, but willing, and only threw one stop at a spooky fence with blue drums under it. Then he spooked at the fence next to it and bolted a few steps, for which he got in very big trouble.

Zorro also had one or two stops but seemed to enjoy the whole thing enormously and stayed very quiet for J.

The water was the moment of truth, because Zorro is dodgy about some water and Jamaica has never gone in. At all. Ever. K waded in with her gumboots and dragged Zorro in while I poked him with my whip from aboard Jamaica (I was in eventer mode), and once Zorro was in, K just led Jamaica and I gave him a little tap when he got rude and in he went. By the end of it we were joyously cantering through the water and over the banks.

The eventing bug has bitten me so badly again, and I know this horse would be a most trustworthy partner. Logistics are in the way, but we’ll see how it all pans out. I’m just so grateful we got to go play and school over it all again. Deo volente.

Glory to the King.

Q3 Goals Recap

I’m so honoured to be working with these gifts from God. ❤

Arwen

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  • Get points for Elementary Medium. Almost there! We need ten, and we have nine. I’m pretty sure our next show in the end of October will get us that last one, since we have been just breaking 60% now, with the exception of the disastrous test last time. Our scores have slowly crept up, but it’ll be at the next show that we see if our hours of schooling have made an appreciable difference yet.
  • 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 want to do this so badly, but logistics may not allow. We’ll see. It’ll be fun to do the boxing day hunt, maybe with a friend. God willing, though. I don’t think we’ll go back to eventing; I can’t justify the expense on a horse who isn’t really going to be fast enough to be good even at the lower levels, although I’m not denying that we had so much fun during our eventing year.

Looking towards next year, I’m still going up and down a bit between continuing with the dressage – either trying to improve the Elementary or give EM a shot – or going into showing again, since she is really good at it. It’ll depend on the logistics. Either way, my dragon gives me hope. ❤

Midas

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  • Hack alone and in company.
  • Be quiet at shows. 
  • Compete up to 70cm showjumping at training shows. Next show! He’s schooling it at home under VT’s kid and the two of them have been cruising around 60cm.
  • Compete up to Prelim at training shows.
  • Compete at the Nooitie shows. 
  • Go cross-country schooling. The training shows we go to have a nice working hunter/stadium eventing course, and I’m considering popping him around it myself at the next one, depending how busy the show looks (spoiler: it looks very busy). Again, eventing isn’t really on the cards for us next year, so I’m OK with not achieving this one.

Midas is on the market and I do hope he sells quite quickly. It’ll be very sad to see him go; he’s one of the highest quality ponies I’ve had, and so much fun both to ride and to teach on. But it’s time for him to find his own little person to have adventures with now.

Faith

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  • Stand for grooming and farrier.
  • Lead and tie up. 
  • Box well. Like a dream! Took a while, though.
  • Be good to bath. 
  • Be good to catch. 
  • Show in-hand. There don’t seem to be any Nooitie shows for the rest of the year, so that’s been blown out of the water a bit. Next time we have space in the box for a quiet show or outing, I may drag her along.
  • In spring, lunge.
  • In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.
    She goes into training in November. I don’t think the groundwork will take long, although I am going to take my time about it, since she’s smart and already knows me well. In fact I could probably have at least walk/trot under saddle by December, but I’m not going to push it. If I condition her carefully now it could have repercussions for the rest of her career.

I am SO excited to put Faith into training at last. She’s starting to look so beautiful and behave so maturely, and this little gift from God has so much to teach me.

Jamaica

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  • Hack reliably in company
  • School Novice dressage. Done! I haven’t actually ridden the tests, but that’s not really relevant for him.
  • Jump 90cm graded. We can’t afford graded right now, but I am totally calling this done. We jumped 90cm at a training show and the course wasn’t soft and he absolutely killed it. Good boy!

Next year, our plan is to work towards jumping Module 5 (1.00m… eep) towards the end of the year. To do that, we’re going to do equitation and jumping at SANESA, so we’re starting to work through the 90cm equitation tests.

Lancelot

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  • Reliably do long hacks alone, in company, and wherever without any drama his kid won’t laugh off.
  • Do a training show or two at Prelim dressage. 
  • Consistently jump graded at 70cm, preferably clear. 

Lancey has been taken out of training and passed on to his kid because he’s become such a solid citizen. One of the most pleasant horses in the yard – and a firm favourite with everyone, both to ride and just to be around. It’s hard not to feel loved in his presence.

Trooper

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  • Do training showjumping shows, up to about 60cm. We’re not going to push him for this right now. I think he’s just not ready for it – because every time we aim him at a jump he crashes through it and knocks his legs and gives himself a fright, poor chap.
  • Do training dressage shows, up to Prelim.  He’s schooling Prelim at home, but has done walk/trot at shows. Again, I’m not pushing it, because his plans have changed. See below.
  • Be as safe as a house on hacks, mostly in company.
  • Be as safe as a house on the ground. Anybody can handle him, including the tiniest of kids, without any trouble.
  • Be fully quiet at shows. He’s just the same at shows as he is at home – with his buddies, away from his buddies, in the stable, wherever!

Trooper originally was supposed to be a resale project, but with Stardust still being in rehab from her injury and a big hole left in the riding school with her being out of work, as well as Lisna being sold, we’ve ended up keeping him for E. They’re a solid match and looking forward to their first show together this month, too.

Thunder

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  • School all the Novice work, ready to compete next year. We basically only school Novice work except when we’re test riding and polishing for shows these days. His lengthenings are our main focus, mainly because I’m really no good at them, but they’re coming on well. He’s done most of the leg-yields and counter canter, and the figures are easy enough. We rode the whole of Novice 1 quite nicely this week and will continue to work through the Novice tests as we go on.
  • Jump 70cm courses with confidence. Fast he is not, but confident, definitely. He doesn’t bat an eye.
  • Do our pre-flatwork short hacks calmly. I’ll be honest, I haven’t really worked on these. Mostly because my time with him is so much fun that I’m being a little bratty and not wanting to ruin it by going for a hack and having a bolt. However, I’m going to start on them next week. We’re doing so much better together lately and I feel like if he does bolt I can stop him now. I’m also going to hack at the end of a session instead of at the beginning, so that his brain is engaged by then.

I’m excited for Thunny’s future. My morning rides on him are almost always therapeutic; we get lost in the dance, and he seems to enjoy it just as much. He’s even turning into a good citizen lately, who stands quietly in the stable and stands tied to the horsebox at shows and just generally behaves pleasantly. I love him to pieces. ❤

Further up and further in. Glory to the King.

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Momentuous Update

So, we have had a very busy and eventful two weeks – mostly in a good way, though.

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summer sunrises… love letters from God ❤

With SANESA Nationals being this week, we’ve got our hands pretty full gearing up for SANESA and CHG championships, as well as preparing kids, ponies and youngsters for next year’s competitive season. The first SANESA qualifier is usually in February, so we only have a few shows left to get all our little newbies ready for their first serious competition.

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Olive is sitting that one out, although her soundness has improved in leaps and bounds. We have been bathing horses like nobody’s business. They were all so grubby and sticky and nasty after a long winter. Our greys are finally looking grey again instead of yellow.

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Not least Magic, who has greyed out so much with this latest shedding. One of these days he will be all white except for his grey knees. He’s been having such a relaxed life that I’d forgotten how anxious he really can be until I bathed him in the new wash bay and, to add insult to injury, discovered that he is allergic to horse conditioner, too. Not as allergic as he was to mine (and I have really sensitive skin, too) but it stung a bit. Sorry chap. This is why he’s a lawn ornament.

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One month down the line, Emmy has gone from a rather straggly and dull 2/10 to a vibrant and active 3/10. All going well, she will go into training on the first of November. I look forward to working with her; she’s an amiable, personable little mare and she looks like fun. Could be fiery, but that may just be the Stud Time talking.

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I led a very long hack yesterday, seated upon my trusted dragon. I was worried about this hack because it was a solid two hours and we had little kiddies and novices with us in our group of seven, but it went really, really well. Even Lulu’s tiny kid (second from the front), who is not yet six, enjoyed it hugely. We did have one slightly heat exhausted rider but she wasn’t even bad enough to get this first aider excited. Nothing that two minutes in the shade and a drink of water didn’t fix.

The dragon herself was fabulous. I had the double on because sometimes dragons need a curb, but most of the way I was only holding my snaffle rein. At one point Blizzard the dog disappeared into the bushes and Arwen and I had to go rescue her; she was enthusiastic heading away from the group and maniacal heading back, but we handled it.

Arwen is stuck with hacking for the next little while. A farrier error left her feet very tender on hard surfaces for two weeks solid before our last show. I took her anyway because she was sound on grass and, as expected, sound on the deep surface at the show; but she was unfit and hadn’t been schooled for two weeks so our test was horrible. We managed fourth out of six, but the lowest mark of our entire career. Oh well. At least it was a completion. Trot sets in the maize fields for now until her feet regrow and we can use the arena again.

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Savanna went to a training show a couple of weeks ago and did the 50cm and 60cm. She was much better than last time, but did fly backwards during the first class when number seven was a bit scary for her taste. I think I could have gotten her through it, but the course builder bossed another rider into giving me a lead, and after that she was just fine. Her flatwork is also much better; bend and connection are now firmly established. Although she can pull a bit and then I definitely feel her size in relation to mine. Sad when 16hh is miles and miles too big for you.

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Faithy has put on a wonderful growth spurt and finally turned into something more closely resembling a horse. We have even managed uphill balance, yay! I was quite worried about that at one point. She also has amazing hair now and the best attitude ever. She also goes into training in November. I can’t wait.

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Zorro has Nationals this weekend, and I’m stoked with how well he’s been going for Z-kid. They jumped around a quite challenging stadium eventing course at the last training show without batting an eyelid, including banks, dykes, brush, and bales. I don’t think there will be anything much worse in the working hunter this weekend and I’m optimistic for them. They managed to place last time despite a pole down, so if he can just behave and jump clean, they might surprise themselves. This horse was remedially stopping earlier in the year, so either way, I’m absolutely honoured to have witnessed their amazing progress. ❤

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Champagne’s been a bit up and down. Her good days have been really, really good – to the tune of riding full Prelim tests – but her bad days are fairly bad. I find they are very much connected to my mood on the day, even when I think I’m hiding it well. Trust the anxious horse to be the most sensitively and intuitively connected to the emotional states of others. We plan on taking her on her first outing, accompanied by Jamaica for comfort, this month. I think she’ll be OK, but I also think I’ll push her full of Good as Gold beforehand.

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Milady has been as sound as a bell lately and she and K are progressing in leaps and bounds. K plans to do equitation and showjump her at SANESA, and I think Milady is going to be a lovely showjumper. She is quiet and brave and quite careful now that she’s figured out where the legs go, and even very chill about fillers. I’m excited for them.

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Lady Erin weaselled her way into the blog by being adorable. She will be one year old in October and is already good to box, bath, lead, tie up, groom, and so on – she’s got a rather boring two years of being a youngster in a field ahead of her. I wish she’d shed the coat so that she can look a bit better.

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I schooled Pennie during September because G had torn a ligament in her foot, as you do one month before Nationals. Pennie and I do not get along. She is an opinionated chestnut mare who is used to being ridden by a confident teenage showjumper with a cold seat. I am a timid dressage rider with a hot seat. We spent the entire month installing brakes. This, however, has paid off and all was going very well until G faceplanted into a fence off her yesterday, earning three stitches and almost giving her mother and I heart failure. God must have an amazing plan with this SANESA season, because He’s sure making it interesting for them.

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This is Titan, who hasn’t gotten much blog space because he’s just been growing up here for a year and a half. He arrived as a little yearling and has grown into a little three-year-old. We call him Teddy most of the time because he isn’t really big enough for Titan just yet, but he will also go into training in November. He’s a little Arab with an adorable personality. He’s one of the ones that lost vast amounts of condition during August, but I almost have him fixed again now.

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Lancey was also one of the skinny ones and his skinny-ness has been rather persistent, but I’m finally getting the weight back on him now. Meanwhile he’s not competing for the moment, having a little break and just schooling with Z-kid until I can get him nice and fat again. Z-kid is still learning but Lance is trying to be a good little dressage horse for her and they’re progressing quite nicely.

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Mom and VT continue to be the best of friends. Mom doesn’t ride, but he doesn’t need her to. He just needs cuddles and carrots from her and she can supply both in abundance.

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For all her spookiness, Champagne really isn’t bad over fences at all and seems to enjoy the odd break from dressage.

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Blizzard and Eagle are settling into their new home, so far without any hiccups. They travelled great and seem to be behaving themselves really well. I trust them under saddle, but I was a little worried about their inexperience moving and travelling. Their calm natures (and the fact that they’ve been together since they were born) came through for them.

David2

We said goodbye to our beloved David.

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Jamaica and I jumped our first 90cm at the training show. Honestly, I was so tired that day that I didn’t really have the energy to be nervous, but obviously that was part of God’s plan because I ended up hardly being nervous at all. We tapped the first pole because we were both kind of asleep, but cruised easily around the rest of it without much difficulty. Thank you Jamaica. He is always happy to pop around at a snail’s pace even though he likes to go fast, even when it’s much harder work to jump. So happy. I really didn’t think we’d do it this year.

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After something of a chaotic week, Thunder had three solid days off before his last show, which is not really recommended for babies, but off we went. He tried so, so hard for me. I got on him and he was a little hyper but he put his nose down and tried his heart out. It paid off, too. We were fourth in Prelim 2 but with 66.8%, which was nice. And we won Prelim 3 with 67.9% in very, very good company. I was quite startled because the competition really was strong, but I was so grateful to him because he really didn’t owe it to me. Thanks buddy ❤

The best part of all was how hard he tried, which left me grateful and happy even if we’d come last. But it was cool that he won these bandage liners, which make him look like a fancy expensive dressage horsie.

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Glory to the King.

A Taste of Summer

Summer and the return of beauty and freshness and flies and heat. The horses spend all day swatting at bugs and I sweat through my hair, but it’s worth it for the return of four of my favourite things: green grass, gleaming summer coats, the smell after rain, and summer sunrises.

favourite tree

There are little goslings and unreasonably aggressive geese everywhere. The occasional fresh breeze brings the hope of the first rains, and the earth is expectant, ready to receive it and return its vibrant bounty.

peach blossoms in the township

All the seasons have a purpose, and their turning is the rhythm of the yard. But I’ll readily admit that I’m ready for summertime.

Speaking of time, this is a picture from 23 years ago. This striking young stallion, Pretman Tornado, is now a 27-year-old retiree with multiple showing championships under his belt. He also happens to be Faithy’s grandpa.

He’s Nell’s grandpa too, unsurprising considering she has almost exactly the same head.

This champion broodmare is Faith’s maternal granddam, Hanu. I didn’t know her, but she has a similar look to Faith’s mom, Luna. These are from a Nooitie brochure from 1994, which Faith’s breeder showed me when I stopped in there last week. Faith’s breeder is like my grandpa and spending time there is always soothing.

These faces make my day. ❤ Lancey and Z-kid’s adorable little sister, who may be doing lead rein at SANESA on him next year. He loves her. Of course he does. Lancey loves everyone.

August marked Lancey’s last month in training with me. After eighteen months, he’s finally all ready for his kids, and I love seeing him with them.

Faithy has become so cuddly. We still do bits of groundwork here and there, much of which is rather pointless because she’s basically good with everything. She loves working and she really deals with new things rather well. I think she will be hot, but I do hope she won’t be spooky and fidgety and maybe she’ll even be good to hack one day. Either way, she’s a unicorn. Six more weeks before we start lungeing.

Olive is doing so, so well. K’s mom has been doing lots of walks and pole work and hills and it’s all paid off. She looks practically sound in the field and on the lunge these days. I still refuse to get on – the last thing I need is a Percheron falling on me – but I don’t think it impossible for her to return to ridden work in the future. Either way, she’s pasture sound and a happy camper, so all’s well.

It’s fly mask time again. Identifying fly masks is a perpetual headache – I’m so OCD about it. Each horse must have their mask and must be turned out only in that mask. The permanent marker thing is regrettably fading already. I used to have handy little tags but they’re a lot of effort and kinda expensive.

Milady’s soundness is giving me grey hairs. If she’s not footsore after a trim, she’s touchy around her wither. She’ll have chiro in October and we may end up nailing shoes on after all. She and K are such a good partnership, I really want to try to keep the creature sound for her. It seems a continual struggle with OTTBs. Nooities ftw.

Eagle is in his last month’s training; he and Blizzard go home in October. He’s more than ready. I ride him once a week myself now, scaling down on the professional work so that it doesn’t all fall apart when he goes home.


Thunny and I have had almost seven years together. ❤ We’ve both grown so much.

Even Renè is struggling with her recurrent episodes of tying up. Ah well. Sound horses do not a grateful rider make. When she is sound, though, she’s starting to show K’s hard work and I’m excited for them with next weekend’s dressage.

Lulu is back in fine form thanks to some saddle fitting tweaks, careful feeding and TLC, and she showed this by bucking off a child. Twice. In the same lesson. Ungrateful brat. She got first me and then Vastrap’s kid schooling her for her troubles, but I am so glad she feels better and is behaving like a four-year-old (worse than my four-year-olds, if we’re honest) instead of like a rising eighteen-year-old who’s tired of life.

I have loads of new pictures of Thunny, which need their own post. Basically, he is fabulous; I have overcorrected myself into a hot mess. Sorry Thunny.

Savanna is finally sound again (pls be sound now horsies) and back in action. Lungeing in side reins has helped her understand the contact better, but there’s still a way to go. Her bend is much better and she seems to get that her job is to jump the jump now, although if she has an excuse she’ll still try and run out.

Her condition is so much better it blows me away. I really didn’t think she’d be this bulky and impressive.

Icey says it’s far too hot to lie on his tummy like a normal canine.

Jamaica has been jumping exercises at 90cm for me. Thanks dude. He helps me out a lot, poor soul, and in return I make him do endless mountains of flatwork. He doesn’t like it, but it is paying off – his muscle tone is so much better.

She might buck with the big kids, but little Lullaby is still our best little lead rein pony. This kid made it to Newcomer’s Challenge on her and nobody is more excited about that than me. ❤

I finished my riding today by hacking Midas for the first time in ages. I’d forgotten how little and comfy he is. He was foot perfect.

You may have noticed that the tone around here is a little more cheerful this week. I had managed to burn myself out again. At least it’s happening less frequently these days, and I’m learning what steps to take to keep myself away from the brink.

I’d forgotten how much I love this place and how sure I am that God sent me. That I belong here.

Thank You, Abba. Glory to the King.

Riba Training SJ

On Sunday morning we trundled off to Kyalami in convoy: the four-berth and two two-berths, all full except the second two-berth. Because with the business growing like it has, that’s how we roll. God is good!

The seven horses arrived at Riba, a smartly efficient and friendly yard right in the heart of deep Kyalami horse country, safely and having travelled well – even Savanna, who was involved in a boxing accident years ago. We had managed to book some stables and hurriedly tossed the ponies in there before heading up for our first classes.

spot the coach in the background

Sunè and her kid were having their first away show off the lead. She was nappy in the warmup (including jumping out of the side… not entirely sure the kid was not in on this plot) but once they hit the show ring they were both absolutely on their game. As you can see, I was in the arena for both rounds for moral support, but all I did was shout “Slowly!” at intervals. He remembered the tracks perfectly and Sunè was her wonderful little self. They did up to 40cm, which is already good enough for SANESA Level 0. I wouldn’t push him for more if he doesn’t want to so I’m pretty happy with it.

Savanna was next. She’d been amazing to box and handle and showed no separation anxiety, which is already a huge win, so I was optimistic. Once I was on she did get a bit spooky. Nothing violent, but your standard TB move of running backwards and threatening to rear. We handled that and made it into the warm up, where she was looky but fine and completely happy to jump all the jumps – even the oxer.

In the show ring for the 40 it started with some more backwards running and panicking; I talked her over 1 and 2, and 3 had a wavy plank in it and she politely declined. A kind coach came over and led her over that, and then she seemed to settle and plopped around the rest without turning a hair.

In the 50 she had settled very well and trotted around it easily, albeit having a big look at the wavy plank and carelessly taking a pole, but I’ll take it.

It was all just standard baby horse stuff and I’m expecting huge improvement by the next one. The main thing is that she loaded and travelled well, didn’t get separation anxious, handled the new environment, and was willing to try. The rest will come with experience.

Midas and VT’s kid N were in the 50 and 60, as well as Liana and her kid. Both ponies jumped super clear rounds. Liana also had a fat look at the wavy plank but her kid gave her a big kick and they made it. They didn’t place in the 60, but that was because I gave the kid strict instructions to keep it slow and quiet, and she followed them to the letter. This kid was falling off at 50 only a few months ago – I’m intensely impressed.

Midas absolutely jumped out of his socks. He got right to work and never looked at a thing; in the jump-off he took the little turns and stretched out until he was doing horse strides with those little legs. His technique continues to improve and he’s just such a brave, uncomplicated and trustworthy chap – at four years old, and ridden exclusively by kids. Just top class and I really mean it. In the 60 he ended up fifth in a fairly big class, causing problems for N because…


… Vastrap won it. Nothing could stop this little professional and they absolutely nailed it. In the 70 they came third despite poor N having tight costume changes riding two horses with one saddle. She handled it great. The makings of a top rider here, too.

he is the best at waiting in training show queues

Lancey also jumped the 60 and the 70 and he nailed my goal (which didn’t make it to the blog, oops): no stops. In fact, he jumped all his rounds clear. He behaved impeccably all day, except when I tried to cut this turn in the jump-off and we almost jumped this random jump and he mercifully stopped and I almost fell on it and then we got it together and finished the round. Obviously he wasn’t very quick so we didn’t place, but now he’s all ready for Z-kid and I’m happy as a bird.

This wonderful object was his wonderful Jamaican self, garnishing compliments on his spottiness and sweetness. I was so so tired when I got on him for the 70 and didn’t really get it together, so he climbed over the fences and almost stopped at the wavy pole and I just sat there flapping my stick because my legs didn’t want to kick anymore. Poor chap still managed to jump clear, though.

I had a breather (and food) before the 80 and this managed to restore my riding ability back to normal. We tackled this, a speed class, with something resembling speed for the first time ever. I never chased him, but I did ask for his “big” rhythm (the biggest I’m happy with, which admittedly is not very big) and we made tight turns and the horse was just fantastic. I made decisions and actually rode and he just rose to the occasion. There were VERY spooky fillers but he marched over them all. We got sixth too, which was quite nice.

Maybe next time we’ll try a 90. Either way, God is amazing and I love my spotty friend.


Glory to the King.

Big Skies

It’s been another long and hard week under these big skies, but so worth it. My training has picked up somewhat with the addition of Savanna and Lisna to my schedule, as well as extra admin over month end, so we worked hard this week – but we’ve managed to get a whole lot done!


Thunny was fantastic this week, working on a bunch of Novice work, including the transitions, lengthenings and a little leg-yield or two. He also almost killed L with his lunging, I’m afraid – big dude still remains rather, um, unenthusiastic about the forward thing.


Magic is so fat I’m going to have to start limiting his teff at some point, although he’ll probably lose much of it when spring rolls around and he walks all over his field after the little bits of green grass. His liberty is going great. We’re still pretty much free lunging, but now I can get him to make his circles bigger and smaller, and come to me every time I ask.

I can easily see how the whole thing would go awry if you came at it trying to treat this dangerous huge animal like a dog, though. I very quickly established to Magic that if I say come it means to a spot just outside my space bubble, then I go to him, he doesn’t get to jump on top of me. This has kept things relaxed even when he wants to fool around and buck and express himself because he’s not close enough to accidentally hurt me, so he can have some fun.


Champagne brought me to my knees – literally. It’s not that we were making no progress, but my heart just breaks for that horse when she gets sucked into that whirlpool of anxiety over the littlest thing. I’ve never known a horse to stay so worried for so long – not even Magic. So she featured prominently in my prayers last week, and I started asking for a little more. First just hand walking around the terrifying dressage arena and then – wonder of wonders – I actually rode her all the way around the track without having any meltdowns! I used an older horse to give us a lead, which definitely helped, but in the end we took the lead. She spooked a couple times but it was a normal “ah scary!” young horse spook, not a meltdown.

Progress is slow with Pagney and I really hope her owners stay patient with me because to them it must look awfully like they’re paying me to do nothing. But we’re having big, life-changing conversations with this horse now, and if I rush now I’ll just break her right back down again. She needs so much to learn that I will never punish her for being afraid or write off her nerves as being unimportant. She just doesn’t know she can deal with things, and slowly she’s getting to a place where I can talk her down off the ledge.

In short, she’s finally beginning to trust me. Well done, special little soul. ❤


Beloved dragonbeastie had a bit of a weird week – our routine was just a bit off somehow. She worked brilliantly well, though. More on that later.

I do find that our usual dressage ride time – about 7am – works far better than any other time for her. It’s very quiet then, and she’s able to focus well. Afternoon rides amid the chaos of lessons and lunging and evening feed don’t go as well and she struggles to get into the right zone, but she does it for me.


Lady Erin had her (hopefully) last session about the box on Monday. She just marched right on in four times in a row without any trouble. She is a bit scared of backing out again after slipping last time, but she’ll do it without any drama. Her citizenship is basically done now; I just want to discuss the idea of having a bath, probably when the weather is nicer.


Lisna has been put on my list for twice a week this month. I have my concerns that she’s a bit big and uneducated for E. The horse does not have a violent bone in her body, but she does tend to get quick in canter and I’m not sure how she’ll do at a show. We’re going to try and take her to one in the end of the month and see how she goes before making any decisions or anything.


Savanna’s first show is next weekend and I’m looking forward to it. She’s a hard-trying horse and going MUCH better now that she understands her job a bit better. Her rhythm is lovely now and we’ve started to talk about connection, too. She does want to duck out the first time she sees a fence, but the tendency is decreasing – especially with her teenager.

Midas’s new child’s attendance was a bit sporadic this week due to circumstances beyond their control, so VT’s kid rode him again. This pony goes soooo well. He’s getting quieter and quieter – more and more suited to a first pony even at his age.


K is riding Milady with the idea of turning her into a schoolie since I have nothing really that’s big enough for adults and teens. She can’t just stand in a field open and in early pregnancy, she’s far too young for that. Her first heat cycle of the season arrived this week and I’m looking at sending her off to meet a very handsome grey Welsh husband on the next one or the one after.


This was Starlight’s last ride with us. She has found a new home at a fancy place in the city with some very nice people, and left on Thursday. The riding school will definitely miss her.

Eagle is just super. He’s actually more chill on hacks than in the arena and just loves going out whenever. He had to give Starlight and Lullaby leads past spooky objects on this particular hack. K rides him mostly now since he’s pretty finished and I am swamped.

Blizzard had his first few steps of canter very uneventfully in the ring, so he graduated to the dressage arena. I’m taking a new approach on schooling him, removing a lot of my usual emphasis on forwardness and rhythm in the early stages. It annoys me; I feel I’m teaching the horse to be ridden badly. But for a farm hack, whose owners’ buddies will probably want to take a spin now and then, it may be a quicker way to get him safe. Eagle is already too forward for them. Anyway, Blizzard didn’t look at a single spooky object, so his future as a hack looks bright.


Little Lullaby really perked up this week. I noticed she lost a bit of weight – not loads; she was about a 7 and now she’s about a 5.5 – and it’s affected her saddle fit. We tweaked that and it definitely helped. I also added a bit of concentrate and increased her joint supplements to see if that helps. It all seems to be paying off; she is more cheeky but also definitely more enthusiastic again. Which is good because Starlight left a gap poor old Lulu will have to fill (with Trooper’s help).


I took little Icey to the old age home for some interaction with the residents, alongside a group of other dog owners coordinated by the local SPCA. Ice is kinda terrified of old people but he’s getting better with each trip, and was actually really well behaved. It was a hugely soul-nourishing experience. God has this way of most feeding us when He sends us to feed others.


Ash is also in heat this week, yay! I’m still a bit up and down with choosing a stallion for her. I found a gorgeous Connemara stallion, but he’s maximum height and she’s just over. I’d also prefer a live cover stallion given her age. So we’re looking at an ex-1.10m jumping Welshie or at the stunning Welsh stallion that was reserve supreme in hand at HOY.


Lancey is so amazing on hacks now – I trust him very well alone, in groups, and in all three gaits. His responsiveness in the arena was not great this week, but he has been jumping with a lot more confidence than before. I’m hoping for his show next week to be his last under me before I hand him over to his kid for good.


Liana and her kid had an easy week jumping and hacking after having their brains fried by prix caprilli last week. They loved it.


This is Billy Bob, a tiny brown Jamaica from Winstead. He is lovely. My lesson this week was less lovely. I was back on board Al and his very long stride took me by surprise a bit; I was really struggling to see distances and ride a rhythm and it made me on edge because I felt like he was jumping out from under me a bit. We got it done, but it has left me with some apprehension for Module 4. I’ll be fine as long as the horse I get is short-striding and a bit lazy. If I get something a bit trigger-happy with big strides it may be a bit of a disaster. That’s up to God though, so He’s got it.


L and an online Module 2 student are writing their exams in a couple of weeks so it’s been Pony Club around here frantically learning stuff. These rules are basically impossible to get into your head and must be known from memory for the exams, so now there’s a poster in the feed room for L to chew over with every feed.


Destiny is probably going home to his mom at the end of the month and he feels pretty ready. He still drives me nuts from time to time, but he’s a solid citizen now and his mom handles him well.

I left the bad news for last because it comes with a serious prayer request. Precious Stardust has injured her gimpy leg on Friday afternoon. She started limping a bit halfway through a lesson; we got off and unsaddled, and when we walked her to the stable she was barely weight-bearing. I really, really hate to see a horse that lame, I really do, it’s seldom good. She’s on box rest and NSAIDs for the weekend, with the hope that it’s a bad muscle sprain that will resolve, but if I’m honest I have no idea what’s going on in there.

She has done so much. She is a cornerstone on which we built this yard and she owes me nothing, but I pray God that she’ll be OK. She’s my most stalwart colleague and most trustworthy helper and I really want to see her sound again. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.

Glory to the King.