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.

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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.

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His connection was still so dodgy here.

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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.

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And now for SANESA, starting with adorkable Lancey.

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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.

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Or anything about being photogenic.

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

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

Too blessed to express. Glory to the King.

SANESA Q3

Well, firstly, this show was amazing. I’m so proud of how hard my students all tried, and their hard work and talent is paying off. The ponies were super and God was with us, as always. Even the venue, which I was ranting about last time, really stepped up its game and I was suitably impressed. It ran really well for all concerned. We had our hiccups, but we all went home safe, sound and satisfied.

Saturday kicked off the qualifier with all the little primary school riders, who were brilliant. Liana and her child had two main goals: remember the course, and don’t fall off. Both were achieved with resounding success even though the poor child’s last practice before the show on Friday night included a nosedive in front of a fence. Kids are made of rubber, so this kid just bounced right back and they jumped great. Liana got quite hot in her first class (50cm showjumping) so the kid showed huge maturity in pulling her out and making a circle. They got penalties for that, but it definitely kept things safe and under control, for which they were rewarded with a big fat blue ribbon in their ideal time class.

They also showed a great improvement in their Prix Caprilli scores, which neither of them like very much, but it’s good for both of their training so I’m chuffed.

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Meanwhile, having to cope largely by herself as I ran from calling a test to coaching Liana’s kid to dragging Lulu about on the lead rein, Vastrap and his kid carried on happily by themselves. I only managed to watch one of their classes (listening to the announcer in their other class while I was trotting around the dressage myself on Midas), but I’m glad I did because it was brilliant. VT showed no ill effects after his tying-up episode, demonstrated by a resounding second place in their competitive A2 speed class. They were fourth in the competition round and as happy as piggies in poo. This combination has the necessary qualifiers to go to Gauteng Finals, so that’s pretty awesome.

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Our next little primary school rider was the littlest of all of them, a truly adorable five-year-old riding at her first show. She was doing POG equitation on the lead rein, accompanied by myself and dear old Lullaby. Dear old Lullaby absolutely LAUNCHED herself over the first ground pole, but the kid sat it out just fine and even remembered her little course for third in her 9-and-under class of 11 kids. Pretty impressive. Lulu was super well behaved apart from that, um, little moment, so hopefully there will be a whole horde of kiddos attending the next one with their equine teacher.

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melting the judge’s bones with cuteness

In light of the little kids’ successes, the high school kids had a lot to live up to, but they absolutely knocked it out of the park. K and Thunder had dressage on Saturday and equitation on Sunday. Thunny was much less tense than normal and got lots of “obedient” comments in Prelim 3 and 4, but regrettably they got a little lost with their canter leads and the 6’s and 7’s of their walk/trot work got disappointed by the 4.5’s and 5’s of their canter work. It was still good enough for fourth place. Their equitation also got them a placing with some lovely comments in a very competitive class.

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no touchy trotting poles

Zorro started his show by flinging Z-kid’s family’s gardener-cum-groom into the air (according to eyewitness; I’m not sure how that happened), dislocating the poor man’s thumb rather painfully in the process. I patched him up (perhaps a little over-enthusiastically) and sent him off to hospital, but at least Zorro appeared to have used up all his naughty for the day. He and Z-kid headed into their working hunter without me, while I was calling K’s tests, so I was sweating for them as I heard the announcer call them in over my shouting, but it was totally unnecessary. Zorro wiggled down to the first fence and Z-kid had had enough of his nonsense and gave him a hiding he won’t forget. He didn’t offer up a single wiggle for the rest of the show, getting first in the working hunter, third in the competition, and two poles down in the A2 speed (he took the “speed” part rather seriously). This combination just goes from strength to strength. The poor groom was very stoical about it all.

Pennie and G also started their qualifier with working hunter, and proceeded to have another show without any stops at all. When Pennie doesn’t stop, she places. This little mare is just the best showjumper I know. She had second place in the working hunter, won both her showjumping classes at 90cm by absolute streets, and came second in equitation despite an unlucky pole. They’ll also probably get to Finals, so far for both WH and EQ.

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That leaves my crew, who were also impressive. Midas started my personal weekend off with a bang when, with a total of three and a half minutes’ warmup (part of which was spent spooking at a horse in a nearby field that chose that moment to completely lose its snot), he scored first 60.8% in Prelim 3 and then 68.4% in Prelim 4. It’s a personal best for the both of us, and considering the poor little chap was quite stressed out at the time, I’m rather chuffed.

He continued to be quite wonderful for his showjumping, winning both 60cm classes in fine style. Admittedly this was not very hard considering his competition consisted of one other rider and Lancey, but he still went clear and quiet in the ideal time and clear and quick in the A2 speed. I made him take some very tight turns in the speed, more as an educational exercise than anything else, and apparently tight turns ain’t no thing if you’re 13.1.

Lancey jumped both 60cm classes as well; I entered 60 as a precautionary measure since I thought the buzz that is SANESA might scramble his little Arabian brain, but I needn’t have worried. He came out totally ready to do his job and did it well over the first eight fences of the first class. Then both of us had a lapse of concentration, took the pole at number nine, climbed through 10A and ran out at 10B. I brought him back over 10B by itself like a newb so we had the technical elimination but that’s what happens when you didn’t get a competitive education.

His second class, though, was wonderful. We both focused and he put in his first totally clear round in a long time, not even breathing on a single pole and brave to every last fence, so that ended us on a high note.

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this picture makes me so happy

Then came the 80cm, which looks ridiculously small in this picture for some reason, and I was more or less OK until Jamaica landed from the oxer in the warmup and then took off like a shot. He made it all the way outside the arena and through a bunch of unwitting spectators (none were harmed in the making of this episode of Morning Star Madness) before I managed to stop him. I brought him back and popped him over it again and he was OK, so I thought it was a once-off right up until we were actually in the arena and our bell had gone. I asked for canter and I got several rather melodramatic handstands instead.

The last time this thing bucked with a rider, bones were broken. I hung on for dear life, or didn’t since that never seems to work, instead choosing to try and pull his head up for dear life. Mercifully, that did work. He stopped, I stopped, I stared at the judge in panic and in that wobbly moment I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to putting my hand up and retiring. I’m still not really sure why I didn’t. Instead we cantered another circle and headed for the next jump, reciting. “The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want.” The first two were OK. He landed from number three and took off again down the related distance to number four; I pulled him off it and circled desperately because I was fairly convinced I was going to die. We scraped over that, and then we had something like control for a while again, although I made it all the way through Psalm 23 (rather loudly over the combination) by number ten. Then I panicked because I had run out of psalm, but luckily Jamaica had run out of steam and we made it. It may just have been the most terrifying showjumping class I’ve ever ridden, but on the plus side, the height was not the problem. Also, stopping was never in the equation. He jumped everything without any question. It was all the galloping and bucking in between that worried me.

I sort of schooled him around for a bit before the second class and again strongly considered scratching from it, but again didn’t. It took every shred of guts I had, and even then it was only by the grace of God that we walked back into the arena, but by then he’d gotten a very solid one-rein stop which had made him rethink his life choices and settled down from whatever had worried him so much, so he was himself again. Looking at the pictures later, I realised I buried that poor animal to every single fence and he patiently jumped every single fence carefully and quietly. This is why I lease this beast. He’s rather funny-looking and has the odd psychotic break, but at the end of the day he jumps the first time every time and I can cope with his drama. He’s the one thing that my beloved Magic just isn’t – resilient to rider error. I can mess up as much as I please and he’ll still jump.

He jumped clear, which dismayed me a little because it meant I had to go back in and do it all over again for the jump-off. By this point, Jamaica was completely chilled and he was holding my hand again. The other rider had a very quick mare and they were good and I was still kinda panicking so any form of being competitive wasn’t in the equation at all. Then, rather unluckily, the other mare crashed straight through the first fence and I figured I may as well try since I had hopefully used up my near-death experiences for the day. (Did I mention how nerves exaggerate a situation?) So he popped around clear and slightly faster than slug-esque, and we got a ribbon. Which was nice.

It was, in many ways, a tough qualifier for all of us and it challenged all of our patience and courage. It was our busiest yet, but our riders absolutely rose to face every giant that met them and they won.

Blessed to be where I am, and most undeservedly so. Glory to the King.

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Photo Dump Recap (again)

We’ve been clipping up a storm – of horsehair, flying about everywhere. (And I do mean everywhere – fellow clipping people will sympathise).

because it’s a schoolie and ain’t nobody gonna stop me

So far, Lulu, Zorro and Jamaica have stood dead still to clip. The clippers broke halfway through Jamaica so we had a whole rigmarole with that and his coat looks a bit disastrous now – but nothing that a week’s growth won’t fix. On the upside, by the end of it, he was grazing as I snipped away.

daddy fixed them

I’m hoping to maybe drive around and shave ponies for people and thus acquire some more funds, if the clippers continue to behave.


I jumped 90cm on Jamaica. The nerves have been a little up and down, but the overall tendency has been really quite good. Jamaica bails me out a lot. I entered him in the 80cm at SANESA next weekend because that’s what we seem to be coping at even on my bad days.

Magic lost his snot.

Magic found his snot.

Eagle went to the dressage arena and behaved brilliantly. He has the most incredible brain – that rare combination of quiet and willing, but intelligent and sensitive. I wish I could keep them all sometimes.


I can now ride horses that are taller than I am without even a twinge of worry (if they’re quiet). This is Buzz. Buzz is amazing.

Our views stay amazing.

We took lessons with dressage coach S: K and Renè, and me with my two beasties. It was invaluable. I nearly died. S really, really liked Thunny and got me properly excited about his future.

Eagle’s owner rode him for the first time. He was superb, but it got cut short when one of the stirrup leathers snapped mid-canter. I can’t believe it – it wasn’t even worn. Eagle’s mom took a tumble and left rather battered. Really unfortunate because it was going so well. God knows what He’s doing with this.

Exavior is gorgeous. I have to sell him. The family and I (and God and I) had a talk about that first, and we agreed that with things a little tight sometimes (as is normal, for any growing little yard), the funds that are going to his upkeep and training could be better used elsewhere. There are so many kids out there dying to ride but without the financial oomph to do it and that’s what we’re here for, not this. It’s not like I can ride him anyway, and he has too much future ahead of him to waste on a maybe.

It’s very sad. But it’s God’s plan, not mine, and this miracle horse has a lot more miracles in store for him. Just with somebody else.

Kissing this nose makes everything better, though.

So does catching two top-class Nooitie mares in one picture. They’re more alike than they’ll ever admit.

Join-up? Nope. Apples.

Trooper is doing super. We’ve got canter now, and on the correct lead, and circles (kinda). He’s got a bit of a nappy streak but it’s nothing my pink wand isn’t dealing with.

We took our big group of kiddies for a hack. Regrettably I didn’t get a picture of the cutest feature: a three-year-old bundle of cuteness seated upon Midas. Now that was adorable.

Arwie and I took a walk on the wild side – AKA the public road. Then we went inside and did four million shoulder-ins; coach S showed us how to do them properly and we’re not going to let them get us down again.

She doesn’t have Magic’s scope or Nell’s trot or Thunder’s presence, but she’s got the fire in the belly that lights mine when it flickers and she never lets me down. Ever.

I had the saddles fitted – the dressage to Arwen, the JC jumping to Jamaica, and the beloved K&M to Thunder. The perk is that the dressage is now super wide and fits everything, including Lancey, who has been doing his best flatwork yet. The jumping is good provided we do it in the dressage arena; he’s lost his nerve in the grass somehow. We entered for the 60cm at SANESA as a precaution but it’s not the height that’s the problem.


Whenever we hack, we’re accompanied by one to three happy Jack Russels. They’re the most incredible little dogs.

Our string of good hacks has grown to the point where I try to take a group every Saturday (except on competing weekends). This was a very beginner group so I walked, but I needn’t have bothered. My sister led the way on Stardust, and Sunè, Renè and Lullaby were perfect.

Ice has an adorable new jacket. It says “dog” in case I forget what he is.

There’s just something about a true black, isn’t there? I thank God for Eagle. I’ve reopened my training, so I don’t get to cherry-pick my training horses anymore. I certainly wouldn’t have picked him – big, sensitive, troubled, athletic. But God sent him here for a reason and he’s given me so much confidence. Thanks Lord.

Cute little brat is on the open market now; I’m so proud of him. He’s such a nice, quality pony and I’m happy to be presenting him to the public. Still, I’ll miss him when he goes. If he doesn’t, we’ve got dressage and jumping at SANESA too. (It’s going to be a little busy).

Lady Erin helps me groom the old queen. She can walk on the lead now, with intermittent use of the bum rope and elbow.

I’m shopping for a (cheap) new bridle for Thunny because all my bridles look like bits of thread on the anvil he calls his head. He’s being incredible – I’m excited for this weekend’s Prelim 2 and 3 on him. We’ve been working hard on that left bend and it’s paying off.

God is amazing. Glory to the King.

Q1 Goal Recap

We’ve put in lots of work – let’s see how it’s paying off.

Arwen

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  • Get points for Elementary Medium. One-fifth of the way there; we have 2 points and we need 10. Of course, it would help if we could score better than 59, which I know we can – and we did, at the Nooitie show – so here’s hoping the next show goes better. I know she can do it.
  • Don’t mess up a show riding/show hack class. We absolutely did this in the general breed show hack at HOY. While we didn’t get a ribbon, when they lined us up, we were just out of the placings in fifth out of a big strong class full of fancy things. She was foot perfect, and I am beyond chuffed.
  • Jump a graded 80cm round. I’m calling it done because while technically it wasn’t graded, it wasn’t training, either – she jumped the 80cm at the Gauteng Nooitie show with one rider-error pole down. Also cash is a short commodity right now, so coughing up more registration fees for showjumping isn’t gonna happen.
  • Do some cross-country lessons and/or go drag hunting. Still in the pipeline – we’ll get to this once the SANESA qualifiers have calmed  down a bit.

My brave little partner and I continue to put in the hours and the sweaty numnahs, and it continues to work because Arwen always gives back. Good dragon.

Exavior

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  • Continued improvement on injections. We actually haven’t had to poke many needles into the beast yet. In fact, it took me a second to remember that he had his flu shot in February, because it must have been super uneventful. Whoop! He even let the vet measure him, too, although he did try to bite the chiro (brat).
  • Show in-hand without rearing. We did this. Twice!! He did rear once, but that wasn’t in the show ring – he spooked at the stables, leapt forward, trampled my heel, got a massive hiding and reared in protest. Fair enough. He never even tried to rear, bite, chop, or kick anyone and I am very happy.
  • Hack. Even if it’s just to the big gate and back. Sigh. I haven’t even been on it since it tried to kill me in February. However, the Mutterer has been riding him and they did a mini-hack – from the small lunge ring to the dressage arena – without any drama.
  • By June, have 3 gaits. I admitted defeat long before June and palmed him off on the Mutterer in February. They’re still walking.
  • Around his fourth birthday, attend a few training shows at walk/trot and Prelim. If he can behave at home, I know he’s the same at shows as he is at home, so he’ll be OK. He just needs to start going somewhere now.
  • Ultimate goal: be solid at Prelim by the end of the year.

The groundwork goals are working out and he has become quite a  pleasure on the ground, really, so that’s my job. Now he and the Mutterer just have to hold up their end of the deal, and so far, it’s working. He’s quit rearing, anyway, so that’s good.

Midas

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  • Hack alone and in company. Half-done. He hacks alone nicely (although we’re still working on the cow phobia), so I don’t expect any trouble in company.
  • Be quiet at shows. Resounding check! He’s angelic in the stable and very sweet to ride, although he can still have the odd whinny, but it doesn’t escalate and decreases with every show. Vastrap’s kid rode him at the last one without any trouble.
  • Compete up to 70cm showjumping at training shows. He’s jumping 60cm without batting an eye and we’ll be doing higher fences later on. I know he can, I just don’t want to push those baby joints too hard right now. After SANESA season.
  • Compete up to Prelim at training shows. Absolutely check! With good scores in the high 60’s, too.
  • Compete at the Nooitie shows. We did Pre-HOY, HOY and Gauteng, which leaves Nationals and Spring Show. Spring Show will depend on if we still have him.
  • Go cross-country schooling. Not yet, but we will, after the SANESA qualifiers.

Every day I get more and more impressed by this pony – he’s really something special. Rather top-class if you ask me. It’s no surprise that he consistently achieves what we set out to do.

Faith

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  • Stand for grooming and farrier– Both check, both with ease. The farrier wasn’t perfect, but it’ll improve as she grows up. She LOVES the grooming.
  • Lead and tie up. Done, and better than most  of the grownup horses. Clean slates rock.
  • Box well.  – Still need to get to this.
  • Be good to bath. Done; she’s not Arwen, but you can bath her.
  • Be good to catch. Sometimes she still wanders off, but it doesn’t take longer than two minutes to catch the creature. If you have cookies, it’s effortless.
  • Show in-hand. I have my doubts about this one; mentally and physically she could do it and win, but she has grown a coat like a yak, and I’m not shaving it off for one showing class, so we’ll see how she looks by Spring Show.
  • In spring, lunge.
  • In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.

With this girl’s temperament, it’s no surprise that she’s right on track.

Jamaica

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The next few horses didn’t have goals set for them at the beginning of the year, so there’s no time like the present, right?

  • Hack reliably in company. An apparently lofty goal considering he broke his child on a hack, but he’s been OK on little walk hacks in good company, so I think he can do it. He hasn’t dared to buck with me.
  • School Novice dressage. This has been a sticky point. We get really good connection… for a week, and then it’s gone. It was never introduced in his early training and his flatwork is taking a lot of remedial fixing. But if this chap wants to last, he’s going to have to work over his back and carry himself.
  • Jump 90cm graded. I am scared out of my socks, but I have to get Module 5 somehow and even if that’s in next year, we need to make a start and start climbing up the levels somehow.

Lancelot

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This is my last year riding Lancey; I hand him over to Z-kid in December and I want him to be an absolute, ceaseless pleasure for her.

  • Reliably do long hacks alone, in company, and wherever without any drama his kid won’t laugh off. No kid wants a horse that won’t hack, right? He’s been very good on little hacks alone and in company, so we can do this.
  • Do a training show or two at Prelim dressage. Z-kid is in need of some classical training and Zorro certainly isn’t coming down the centreline anytime soon. Lancey is a bit of a baby when it comes to flatwork but Prelim is well within reach.
  • Consistently jump graded at 70cm, preferably clear. I’m not going to push this big muppet to jump higher. He’s still very much a baby in his own mind, but this much he can definitely do.

Trooper

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The aim is for Trooper to do the next SANESA season under a kid; the smaller and more clueless the kid, the better, because that’s what he’s here for. So with that in mind:

  • Do training showjumping shows, up to about 60cm. I’m producing this as a first pony, so he doesn’t need to jump any higher than that.
  • Do training dressage shows, up to Prelim.  Doing jumping and dressage sets him up for pretty much all the SANESA disciplines.
  • Be as safe as a house on hacks, mostly in company.  I don’t think this is going to be awfully hard, although he might be a little nappy at first.
  • Be as safe as a house on the ground. Pretty much there, we just need to go over boxing again.
  • Be fully quiet at shows. I want him so that a three-year-old could lead him around!

Of course, none of the horses, nor the yard belong to me, so my plans are small and secondary. I lay it all down for my King Jesus.

Glory to the King.

Still Alive, Part I

It’s been a little hectic. I plead first burnout, then boot camp, then a much-needed and God-given holiday over Easter.

So this post (the third one in the whole of April – how sad) is about the week of the 3rd of April – two weeks ago.

also rainy

First, I must share these amazing show photos from the training show. Fine Photography never disappoints.

pony jumps fabulously while I hold the neck strap. What are my feet and face even doing??

Jamaica has proven his ability to jump quite happily while I cling to the neck strap in panic. We’re jumping 80cm at home on my bad days and 90cm on my good days and he’s still got plenty of scope to burn, as evidenced by his hauling my bum out of trouble on a regular basis. The unpleasant little brat is almost gone and is now showing his true nature as a really quite dependable, genuine and willing sort of guy.

Realising that my work here is mainly done, I felt I was quite robbing his owners by making them pay me to build my confidence on their horse. Hence, starting next month, Jamaica will be on half lease with me with the aim of jumping Module 5 on him. I think he has the scope and I feel brave on him and he’s very good at jumping even when I’m glued to the saddle in a state of non compos mentis, which is the only possible way I’ll be jumping a 1.00m course anytime soon.

In preparation for our cross-country schooling the next Monday, we also finally went on a hack again for the first time since he broke his child. No arms were broken at all, and he actually behaved quite perfectly, although we did just walk.

Lancelot had a fairly easy week, which I like to give him after a show because his little brain tends to fry very quickly. We did do the 10-steps exercise, which was so hard for his concentration span that I’m sure I saw a few wisps of smoke coming out of his ears. He tried very hard though. I think I need to get video of him under saddle because I think I’ve missed something. I’ve always thought his trot was his most correct gait but in this exercise he struggled the most with transitions out of the trot. I’m not too sure what he’s doing with his body.

Having finally sorted out the lunging issue with Trooper, I plopped myself on board without further ado. He has been ridden before and is surprisingly forward-going, for Trooper. We have walk/trot and a few steps of canter without a single hesitation or spook (I don’t think he knows what a spook even is).

As expected he can tend towards wanting to nap but the habit isn’t established so one or two flicks with my magic pink wand should sort him out quite briskly.

last bath of the season, methinks

Magic and I actually jumped a bit this week, something we haven’t done seriously in ages, all the way up to 70cm. He was having a very good day so I wasn’t too surprised when he happily packed me over each fence with enjoyment and enthusiasm. Taking the pressure off has been so good for us.


Faithy had her feets done for the first time on Wednesday. She’s been good about having them cleaned and I played with holding them between my knees and on my lap like a farrier does, so she didn’t put up too much of a fight. She did drama queen a bit about having to hold them up for so long, apparently. She has lovely feet, as is to be expected of a Nooitie that’s never been messed with.

Apart from desperately needing a clip, it’s been going very well with Destiny. To be honest I would rather like this to be his last month in training with me, depending on his owner, of course. He still has that dishonest little spook but he has three gaits in balance and rhythm including simple trot changes and has been over a little fence or two. I’d like to get him thinking about connection and going on little hacks and then I think my work here is pretty much done. His owner handles him better than I do at this stage; he’s safe enough for her and she can handle his naughtiness, and they don’t have the personality clash that he and I do.

Of course, he might blow up in my face on his first hack and put an end to that idea while I try and fix that, but I doubt it.

Contrary to all appearances, Arwen has been working hard and doing endless dressage. We had a show on the Sunday, our first graded Elementary, and for the first time in a long time I was more excited than nervous. The judge at the last one was unbelievably constructive and helpful, not in that she was over-generous with the marking but just kind enough to say good things as well as bad things. I don’t know if judges know what a profound effect their attitude can have on the trajectory of a horse and rider’s career. Us dressage types already tend to be perfectionistic and hard on ourselves; grumpy judges rather compound the problem.

It really has nothing to do with the marks. It’s no blow to my confidence to get a 4 on a movement that I know we’re no good at, nor should it be. I just don’t like coming down centreline and feeling waves of disapproval radiating from the judge’s box.

Anyway, Arwen and I have done endless mountains of simple changes and they should be a little better now. It’s more about me getting worried about them and crumbling forward and hanging on the reins than her not being able to do them.

The show turned out to be disappointing for the dumbest reason. We had one grumpy judge and one super nice judge and neither were very impressed, giving us a 58 and a 59. Arwen was as sweet as pie and as obedient as I could have asked for, but as I came down the centerline I realised I couldn’t remember the test. I had learned it and my dad was calling it and I still managed to promptly get an error of course. Bleh.

Things kind of went downhill from there as I sort of sat there helplessly making mistakes, knowing full well what I was doing wrong and unable to persuade my floppy body to do anything about it. I felt I rather let Arwen down, not that she gives her left sock. Burnout is real, guys.

second out of two… whoop whoop

It was a bummer to put so much work into something and then get there on the day feeling so drained that it was kinda for nothing. Still, we tried hard and honoured God so that’s the main thing. We also got 2 grading points – 8 to go.
Thunder also went to the show and did his first Prelim. Apparently, despite being exhausted, I can ride Prelim in my sleep and he was a complete angel. He had the odd whinny and one little spook and a little tension but his good moments shone and both judges were suitably impressed. He was second in a class of nine with two scores in the 66’s. “Lovely horse with presence. Lovely walk. Active rhythm. Promising” gushed the grumpy judge.

“Promising” is something I do love to see on a test. He rides Prelim again this weekend under K and I can’t wait to see what he does.


Lady Erin is enjoying the life of the grown-up, independent weanling under the watchful eye of the old queen herself. Skye has practically adopted her and I think it’s good for the little lady to have a field companion that sets a good example (usually) and doesn’t leave the field, to settle her in this crucial time. Milady has also forgotten all about her offspring and is busying herself about restoring her battered body to shiny fatness.

Poor old Exavior has been badly neglected. The Mutterer came out to ride him once and he was pretty good, although he did start chopping and threatening to rear once, so there’s no way I’m going anywhere near his saddle just yet.

Midas has been working on his hacking, something he really enjoys. He didn’t spook at any cows this time, although to be fair none of them came charging over as they sometimes do, so it remains to be seen how he’ll handle that.

Finally (best for last) I must introduce our new arrival, who arrived on the Friday. First, let me explain that God and I have this arrangement where I keep thanking Him for all the yard’s horses and trying to politely explain that we really do have enough now. And then He’s like, “Look what I have for you!” and I’m like “srsly Lord how are we gonna feed it” and He’s like “Just trust Me, darling” and I’m like “OK”.

Enter Ashgar Riverdance.

Ash is a registered Connemara (thus very rare in our country) in her teens. She was jumping the graded 1.00m under her lovely owner at shows, 1.20 (pony A-grade) at home, when she blew a tendon. Then she blew it again and her owner had to decide that retirement was best for her. Apparently, a gorgeous super talented jumping Connemara broodmare is part of God’s plan for Morning Star Stables, so she fell right into our laps.

Ashy is the typical boss lady and a huge favourite, which is a good thing because she has to be walked for 25 minutes a day and the yard rats queue up for the honour.

Next up, recap of boot camp, then it’s back to your regular posts, ladies and gentlemen. Glory to the King.

The Next Thing

Eyes wide open, I see You working

all around me, You’re on the move

Step by step I’m running to meet You

in the next thing, in the next thing

~ Casting Crowns, “The Very Next Thing”

I had not expected following Jesus to have as much of an element of putting one foot in front of the other as it does. I expected fire and lightning, if I expected anything at all. But step by step I’m learning that a lot of self-denial, of endurance, of love is hardest – and just as important – to exercise on the ordinary little days. We’re not called to rejoice only in the storms or in our greatest triumphs, but to rejoice evermore. To pray without ceasing. And that means here, now, in our daily lives, in the next thing. There can be extraordinary power in the ordinary.

And it has been a happy ordinary around here; no dramatic victories to report but a steady, patient climb towards excellence. With God in every breath, which turns ordinary on its head a little, but right now is as close and warm as your own skin.

Sunday was training show day and the jumpers had a good outing (which ended in a three-hour trip home when the box got a flat). Starlight was dead quiet and beautifully behaved but took a pole in each class of 40 and 50cm. Renè also had a few poles, but K rode her admirably and she wasn’t bothered by anything very much except the plank in the first fence.

Apparently the plank worried Lancey too, because he stopped at it in the 60. To be fair a horsebox chose that moment to rumble past right next to the arena and he got a bit distracted; I applied both heels and we clambered over. Then something else – a butterfly, a mote of dust, who knows – distracted him and he stopped at number four too, but after that he jumped fine.

He redeemed himself in the 70 by jumping everything completely fearlessly, just getting penalties for a silly pole because he’s still a little careless with his hindlegs.

Jamaica made up for them all by giving me the most fantastic ride. The 60 was a doddle; he bounced around nonchalantly and won it by four seconds, and then came second in the 70. He was quick but focused, relaxed and attentive and I couldn’t have asked for better.

I really thought reschooling this delinquent after he broke his child was going to be a massive bore, but he’s just been such a blessing. All things work together for good, eh?

Back home today, Arwen continued with the theme of good jumping by absolutely packing my panicky butt through a gymnastic line that really quite challenged her scope. We trotted in to 75cm, then one stride to another 75cm and then three to a wide airy oxer at about 85cm although looking at it I think it was bigger. I was terrified but she just dragoned along dragging me with her. Obviously she didn’t manage three in the three, but she did get the one, which was nice.

Magicky was next and I spent almost an hour fussing over him and cuddling his wonderfulness. Such is the life of the pet horse. He is doing so well and I love him to bits.

Thunder rides his first Prelim on Sunday and I feel like he could score really really well. Of course he probably won’t because he’ll be screaming and bucking and spooking and bolting, but the schooling is there. He’s working over his back beautifully especially in walk and his trot has gained a floaty cadence that hopefully looks as nice as it feels. The canter still needs help to retain its rhythm and jump for more than a lap or so. Even stretchy trot is slowly slowly coming to life.

Midas and Sunè both learned something today; Midas learned to counter bend and improved the quality of his connection, and Sunè learned that running out at the end of a grid gets you a very big hiding. She proceeded to jump beautifully thereafter and seems to enjoy it – I’m chuffed to have found its jump button.

I also weaned Lady E today. I feel like a pig. Not to Lady Erin – she is happily hanging out with Skye and Vastrap. Poor old Milady is the one doing the shouting. It’s for your own good, Milady. Magic is not helping the situation by running up and down screaming for no reason that he really knows.

I also rode Eagle properly for the first time today and regrettably have no pictures of this momentuous occasion. He is super. I literally hopped on and said “Walk on” and he walked on without a touch. We got a lap of the ring each way with whoa, go and turn and I am very very chuffed.

Trooper got his first saddle, which I at least got a picture of. I forgot to untie him for this milestone because he was sleeping and stayed sleeping throughout. He did wake up to lunge, though, and behaved very well.

Little steps that keep taking us forward. Glory to the King.

Changing Seasons

Winter’s about here.

Although I’d welcome some frost right now with open arms. AHS is perilously close all around us.

They cut the hay for the first time yesterday, as Arwen and I discovered on a midday hack. “Midday” and “Arwen” are not a good combination right now – we did half an hour of walk/trot and the sweat was absolutely pouring off her.


Her routine riding time is 6:15am right now, which suits her well – she’s been schooling those simple changes really well. I’m using my ten-steps exercise, which is freakishly hard, but I love it.

so majestic

The ten-steps exercise is simple enough to remember: on a 20m circle or figure eight, don’t stay in any one gait for more than 10 steps. I do halt-walk-trot-canter-trot-walk-halt on the younger horses and canter-walk-halt-canter (with counter canter mixed in) for Arwen. Trying to get exactly ten steps is practically impossible, as is any good dressage.

Jamaica and Thunder schooled this exercise too. Thunder was very obedient but his gait quality wasn’t always there. I changed his bit to the French link, though, and that had him off my hand and carrying himself a lot better. This exercise helped him to immediately go forward into a good swinging gait because he only had 10 steps to prepare for the next one.

somebody’s on his forehand, possibly cuz I’m staring at it so fixedly

Jamaica, on the other hand, was disobedient and unbalanced throughout but forward and connected through the gaits. I actually threw in the halt for his benefit and it helped greatly because otherwise he’d quite happily just tank along. He loves to dive onto his forehand and just flop. This exercise helped him to balance, wait, and listen. I suddenly and magically had a soft, rebalancing half-halt after this.

Midas played around with a bit of flatwork this week under me, working on an accurate centreline and trying for a bit of stretchy trot. I also asked him for his first tiny leg-yield, quarter line to track. I love how he totally understands the basics so well that I just added inside leg, opened outside hand and there we go, leg-yield. He jumped a bunch of one-strides with a kid to help teach him to jump his way out of trouble with minimal managing. And we went for a little hack without a single spook.

Olive back with her tiny buddy

Sunè is working in the lesson program quite a bit lately, mostly because she’s just fantastic and so safe. I’ve been on her a bit to jump and that’s shown massive improvement – I’m going to try to do the 60cm at SANESA Q2 on her, too.

She’s not the only one that’s doing some jumping this week. Lancey, Jamaica and Starlight are jumping in a training show this weekend under me, plus I had a lesson with K’s dad G today.

I rode babysitter Al for the lesson and was sweating profusely when we rode in – K, her mom, another guy that rides professionally all on their babies and me just kinda sitting there on the schoolie. G is brilliant and super nice though, so it was good. I spent most of it panicking about running into everyone else – I haven’t had a group lesson since June. But when I was focusing it was really technical but not at all scary. Three months ago I would have been quaking at the mere thought of putting a leg over 16.2 Al, so this is excellent. K and G are both so kind. And God is mightily at work in me.

Lancelot was a bit crazy on Monday; he was spooking and stopping and majestically overjumping all over the place. I actually surprised myself by staying very secure in the tack through all his shenanigans, though, so it turned out to be confidence-building and today we could come back and pop around everything at 65-70cm without trouble.

Starlight and I have come to an agreement to be civil to one another and jumped very successfully this afternoon. Video here!

Back at work on the babies tomorrow – I’ll get pictures and updates on Trooper, Eagle and Destiny then.

Glory to the King.

workaholic pony is tired now

Mist on the River

An old farmer around here used to say that once there was mist on the river, the frost would come in seven weeks or less. In seventeen years, he hasn’t been wrong.

Sunmer draws to a close, promising the end of midge season – and therefore AHS season – and summer coats, and boxing horses in daylight for shows.

It also means cosmos season, and that means outrides. Summer never goes out without a fight; it always puts on a last defiance in white and purple. It’s the best time for hacking.

Arwen was so quiet today I was kind of worried, except she would not stop eating the whole time. Arwie LOVES cosmos flowers. She didn’t bat an eye at anything and was a total pleasure.

ain’t no double bridle gonna stop Arwie eating flowers

We rode in between the fields of ripening maize,


in and out of the weird hole with the epic banks,

and through the field of gently waving hay, almost ready for its first cutting.

We even got to see a pair of rooibok… cows? Ewes? Lady rooibokke, anyway.

The horses were wonderful and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. We kept it pretty slow for the little kid’s sake (and mine), but they were all super. Vastrap was hot of course but never bad. Renè, Lulu and Dusty were perfect.

In other news, we’ve had a peaceful week so far with today being a public holiday. We got a bunch of riding done yesterday between K and I, so today is a little slow. Jamaica’s flatwork has shown an improvement again. Arwen ran through Elementary 4 – one of the tests she’s riding on Friday – without apparent effort. Sunè popped through a little working riding test, including straw bales (the only thing that’s ever given her pause in a working riding class), in fine form.

Thunder is now very relaxed in the dressage arena and even packed K over a fence with straw bales under it at 80cm without apparent difficulty.


Midas and Lancelot were introduced to our new jumping stuff. We got ourselves a white plank, which will shortly be a white plank with Scripture painted on, and a picket fence. Lancelot was TERRIFIED at first, Midas couldn’t really care less and both boys jumped great in the end. Midas has been pretty point-and-shoot – he’ll jump the first time, every time.

investigating fully

Eagle and Destiny both got visits from their respective parents, and both pleasantly surprised me. Eagle is a good guy but he can be rather on the sensitive side so tactless handling sets him off like a firework. I coached his mom through lunging and he actually did fantastic – didn’t get in a flap at all if she made a mistake or two. She cottoned on really quickly, too, and by the end of the session they looked quite harmonious.

He’s still a little flinchy about flappy stirrups and having me jump up and down next to him, though. Definitely not ready to sit on just yet.

Destiny has been driving me up the walls by protesting that the dressage arena is Scary and therefore he can ignore all my aids. We had some arguments for the past two weeks, but yesterday it all came together and he gave me two circles of canter each way in the “safe” end of the arena. And today his mom rode him for the first time. He gave her three gaits without batting an eye. I think he feels a lot more resistant than he looks – because he looked fantastic.

Little Trooper also had a breakthrough; we seem to have effectively eliminated the napping. He’s still not the most forward-going chap but consistently gives me walk/trot/canter on the lunge. The canter still needs building, but the balance is there, just not much strength yet. So we moved on to introducing the bridle. I think his rescuer must have done this already because when I put it on his reaction was this:

Yeah. He’s not bothered.

The rest of the week will be consumed by preparing for Nationals on Friday. It feels like quite the doddle compared to HOY, so let’s see how it goes. Always in God’s Hands.

Glory to the King.

20m x 60m = wonderful

I’ve wanted this for so long, and it is so worth waiting for. Today, I got to ride on a flat level surface that wasn’t pounding my poor horses’ joints into oblivion. There were no holes. There was no slipping. There weren’t any other horses in the way! Just 20x60m of amazing. Thanks Dad, Mutterer – and Lord!

just look at it

I was so excited I didn’t even want to use the lunging ring, so I lunged Xave in the dressage arena instead. He was completely wild but happily went around in circles (at light speed). New arena is apparently spooky if you are a baby dumb-blood (I didn’t even come up with that – it’s what the dentists calls them, usually just after Xave tries to jump on his head). Apart from one very rude kick at me as I sent him off, he was actually fairly polite about being worried. Also, he is freakishly gorgeous, did you notice?

light speed trotting feat. fancy new poll relief bridle

I warmed Arwie up in it before jumping and she didn’t spook at all, although she was excited and pulling. Possibly also a by-product of getting last week off. She proceeded to jump a full 85cm course with flair, which felt amazing. We’re getting somewhere!

Lancelot also schooled in it and was impressively calm, and Midas was just as good and practiced both his tests for Saturday really well. It’s only Prelim 1 and 2 but it was wonderful to be able to school the movements exactly as they’ll be in the show arena. He was brilliant. He’ll do really well if he shuts up and concentrates.

Much of the day was taken up in last-minute practices for the kiddies who are showing heifers on Wednesday. In case anyone out there didn’t know, cows are amazingly beautiful. Particularly Jerseys.

majestic moo

Sunè schooled beautifully in the new arena too. She’s still annoyingly one-sided, which irks me mostly because I’m not used to it. It’s one of the first things I try to fix on mine. Bombproof as they come, though. I look forward to her working riding class this weekend.

I also turned Magic out in the new arena in an attempt to let him get used to it without any chance of launching me into the stratosphere. This was a terrible idea. He bolted up and down screaming until I came over and petted him, and then he walked around on a lead as quietly as can be, not spooking at anything. I guess we’ll see how tomorrow goes.

It was a joy to teach in the dressage; the ponies appreciated the easier footing, the riders appreciated the space, and I appreciated being close to the house (and water/food/equipment/loo). My voice, though, is totally cooked. It was fit for shouting across a 15x35m oval, not for this.

working students being supervised by Ice doggy

After the chaos, just before sunset when the light was turning to molten gold and peace filled every breath, I went out to lunge Eagle (who was great) and breathe in the beauty. The reality. The truth of how much we all are loved.

I deserve death. Instead, I get blessings. Life. The ultimate sacrifice from the One I betrayed.

I pray that every time I step onto that big sand rectangle, it reminds me of that.

Glory to the King.

where miracles happen