It’s been hectic, y’all. I’m writing up a proper recap, but for now, here are some truly incredible photos to goggle at. Fine Photography never disappoints.
So much beauty, all around us. Glory to the King.
It’s been hectic, y’all. I’m writing up a proper recap, but for now, here are some truly incredible photos to goggle at. Fine Photography never disappoints.
So much beauty, all around us. Glory to the King.
Despite an ominous start on Friday evening, beginning with Exavior rearing repeatedly as I tried to bath him and ending at about 10:00pm after driving up and down and half the horses escaping their stables, Pre-HOY was amazing.
I suspect it was amazing because it started so badly that I immediately realised I was not going to cope and gave the heavy burden to Somebody strong enough to carry it: my Daddy God. And He obviously did what He always does – miracles.
It rained all day Friday, so bathing them all was rather a problem. Mercifully, the pintos scratched, and we had a two-hour window that afternoon that enabled us to bath Vastrap and Midas and do something about Exavior’s grubby socks. At that point, the bays, Liana and Arwen were just going to have to cope.
We boxed Midas, Exavior, Renè and Sunè up that evening. They behaved remarkably well and settled in nicely, so while we ran around sorting out our poor junior groom’s tent they were pretty much unobtrusive.
The next morning, their good behaviour had run out. Renè, Sunè and Exavior were busy trying to climb into the resident horses’ stables to steal their breakfast and harrassing the resident grooms while Junior Groom stood shellshocked and stared at them and Midas shrieked with indignation, abandoned by his buddies but unable to climb out because he was too short.
We stuffed them back inside and managed to keep them there while I scrubbed Sunè’s sock and got Xave plaited up. He behaved remarkably well and I began to think maybe my head wouldn’t be kicked in after all.
Shortly thereafter, Dad arrived with Arwen, Liana, and Vastrap. VT had been turned out in a muddy field all night but miraculously he was positively glowing with cleanliness. Small miracles.
And with the turnout more or less done and everybody behaving great, off we went to compete.
Exavior, despite my misgivings, was a superstar. I had a very long lead and a whip and a helmet and I didn’t need either of them because he didn’t even think of rearing. He was much too worried about his surroundings to sass his mother, so barring one huge spook, he was respectful and listened to what I said. Everything else in the class being like ten years old and fat, he came stone last, but I was just chuffed with how well behaved he was. Wherever this rollercoaster ride with him is headed, God is definitely steering.
Next there was chaos as the in-hand for the Nooities had been combined, to my great consternation. My kids were on the ball and all marched in perfectly turned out and right on time. I arrived late, red-faced, breathless and having scratched Midas, with Sunè very wide-eyed on the end of the lead, her mane sticking up in all directions.
I was a dishevelled mess. Sunè, however, was a trooper. She didn’t look at anything, she didn’t fidget, and she didn’t bat an eye at being shunted into a new arena with a panicking trainer. She was the youngest and most nondescript in the class so obviously the kids and their gorgeous ponies roundly kicked our butts, but I couldn’t be happier with her. Vastrap ended up coming second and going to supremes, with Liana and Renè third and fourth. (No, my mom is never going to let me hear the end of it).
We went back up for show riding in convoy; Liana and her kid, Renè and yard rat K, and Midas and I. I expected Midas to be nutty because he hadn’t had a class to do in-hand or even get out of his stable all day, but he was phenomenal. Even better than Bruno was at his first show. He remembered his training, he focused, he didn’t spook, and when he got looky he just dealt with it and carried on.
Liana’s kid was very nervous – real little perfectionist, so I sympathise – which made sensitive Liana very nervous too, but with the help of K’s mom they scraped it up off the floor and came a well-deserved second in the strong class. It takes a lot to pick yourself up like that. Renè and K were third, with Renè being completely relaxed and indifferent to everything despite it only being her second outing ever.
Midas remained awesome despite having to do his simple changes in the middle of a giant puddle and he won the class, being the only one in the partbreds. In the enormous Supremes class he was shouting for his girlfriend and got a little strong when all like 30 of us were cantering around and circling and overtaking, but the second I asked him down to trot I got it. I was endlessly happy with him. Couldn’t have asked for better at a first show.
Show classes done and dusted, we moved on to the working classes in typical Morning Star Stables fashion; wildly excited riders, Arwen bucking and snorting because she hadn’t had time to warm up, and K running up wailing because her numnah had gone AWOL at a critical moment. In between the madness, Arwen jumped her working hunter round. Well, let’s just say it would have been a good showjumping round. She galloped, sideways, at the fences snorting fire at them; I hung on somewhere in the clouds of smoke emanating from her nose, and she ate up every fence barring the down bank combination. There she had to stop and check how high it was before launching directly forward, almost leaving me behind. Our gallop was blinding but somehow I managed to get her down to a very quiet halt for the judges, who sat there and stared at us, aghast. We did not place well. I had the best time ever, and so did Arwen, who proceeded to merrily chomp on the grass beside the arena when I untacked her for the conformation.
Working riding wrapped up the day with Arwen, Vastrap and his kid, and K and Renè. The course was fairly challenging; beginning with fairly scary raised trot poles, then a line of gigantic white umbrellas we had to weave through, followed by a barrel with a truly scary giant pink cow on it. The cow had to be picked up and carried at a canter the five strides or so to the next barrel. Then there was a highly spooky brush lane with a black rubber mat in it and a small jump made of straw bales. Last, we had to halt and dismount onto a wall of black boxes before leading our horses away.
Renè was first of the Morning Star horses to go and did us very proud. There’s not a lot of horses that can do working riding at their second show, let alone with poise and composure. She turned up her nose at the poles, plopped happily around the umbrellas, and didn’t mind the lane, the jump or the wall. She did have a very good look at the scary pink cow, but K was patient and let her have a sniff and that was that. They didn’t manage to canter with the cow or I think they would have placed well.
Vastrap coped beautifully with the difficult course. He actually trotted the trot poles this time, had a little look at the lane and took a minute to stand still by the wall, but his kid was glowing when they finished and he took great care of her.
Arwen slept the whole time in the lineup, punctuating this by throwing her head and yawning massively. I was feeling my late night and in-hand classes, so I basically did the same, barely waking up enough to watch the kids go. When it was our turn I made a bleary effort to rouse Arwen for the trot poles, but she still clonked them roundly. Then we aimed for the umbrellas and suddenly she lit up. Dragons to kill! Certain she would spook, I kicked her; she broke to canter for half a stride and then I realised I had to basically just hang on and steer. So that’s what I did. It took all my effort to hold her down to trot for the lane and umbrellas because she was so excited and dragoning magnificently. The cow posed no problem; my steering did, and we overshot the barrel by half a stride, which we remedied by performing a perfect turn on the haunches. Of course, the jump and the wall did not pose any problem for this dragon. I’m not totally sure that working riding horses are supposed to get excited, but at least she wasn’t in the least spooky.
Apparently the judges enjoyed this new take on working riding, though, because beautiful Arwen was reserve interbreed champion in a strong class. I could almost pop. God so knows what He’s doing. I miss Nell, but she’s in a happy permanent home now. And now Arwen gets her chance to shine.
And shine she does.
Glory to the King.
I learned my lesson from the disastrously chaotic Nooitie shows last year: now we’re preparing early. Horse of the Year starts in a little over five weeks and we’re already in a flat spin trying to sort everything out for it. We’re going to be stuck there all week, competing every single day with nine horses and five handlers.
Liana, Vastrap and Renè are going with their respective kids. L and VT have done it all before and will be just fine; Renè is a good old Arop Nooitie mare, viz., she will also be just fine.
I also have fair amounts of confidence in Zara and Tara, since they’re just doing in-hand and were ready for it in the end of November (we were meant to do a coloured show, only it cancelled).
Arwen, obviously, has totally got this. Arwen has always got this.
No, my worries are the three babies that are just about to start their career with me, beginning with the Pre-HOY training show in a couple weeks.
Exavior is going to his first show ever. Just in-hand, obviously, but six months ago I couldn’t even get him out of his field without him trying to jump on my head. He’s been lovely to handle at home but I’m not totally sure if that will carry over to the show environment. So if you see a giant chestnut streak galloping about with a little flappy rag doll on the end of its lead, that’d be us.
Midas is inspiring more confidence than I’d expected; the poor little chap has had so little saddle time but he’s been entered in show riding at Pre-HOY and hopefully will do show hack at HOY itself, too. But despite my initial misgivings, he’s pretty much there. Three good paces, simple changes, starting to connect himself nicely. Quite good enough for a first show at novice methinks.
Sunè completes the lineup, and I do have some trepidation about her. Since I’m not able to ride two horses in one showing class she won’t be doing ridden at Pre-HOY, but I would really like her to be ridden at HOY so I can sell her easier. In-hand she’s also still very green and wobbly, but that at least should be OK. We’ll see what she’s ready for and take it at her speed.
Glory to the King.
Guys, they are not kidding about this job being hard. But it’s my happy place.
There have been a lot of days that I would seriously have quit coaching and training, and just kept my horses to potter on, and gone to be a writer. If I was doing this for the love of the sport, or for my enjoyment, or for money, I would have quit long ago. But my Reason for sticking with it – my Jesus – stuck with me, and here we are. Some hard times behind, and so many (so many!) hard times still ahead. But at the end of the day, when the dust has settled, I am so grateful that I’ve been given a calling that I adore.
Forgive me for my sporadic updates. I’m in a happy place, but it’s a place of transition and it’s hard to keep everything afloat when things are changing. On the surface I suppose that I’m a horse rider who’s continuing to ride horses, but my world is shifting a little because something small is changing – myself. I am no longer “just a happy homeschooled Christian kid”. Happy and Christian, yes, but somehow a lot of people are treating me like an adult, and I’m not totally sure when I crossed that line. Somewhere in the past year, I went from apprentice trainer – the kid that followed the real trainer around, the glorified barn rat – to yard manager. And now people look at me like I’m a real trainer too, albeit a rather wet-behind-the-ears one. So while God’s Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, right now the path is a little weird for me.
But little as I know about adulting, I do know how to train horses, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Here’s a recap.
Magic and I have been scraping back together the confidence that fell on the floor after our somewhat disastrous lesson (yeah, the one where he stopped and I fell off at a 20cm cavaletti) and we are back on (more or less) fine form. Now he’s had his horse sickness shot, commencing six weeks of boredom, but I’m so happy that we really found each other again. The chiro saw him and put all his bones back together, although she had some slightly worrying news that there are bony changes in his wither. Luckily for me (and the yard – my assistant can attest that a daily ride on Magic is essential to maintain my ability to refrain from removing people’s heads) my orders are to make sure he works in self-carriage as much and as frequently as possible. So for right now it just means that he must wear his special princess gel pad, have his saddle checked and chiro done more frequently, and work his beautiful dappled bum off. The greatest damage done is to my bank account, what’s left of it.
Arwen and I are gearing up for our first full-length event since the catastrophe that was ICB, and she is feeling pretty amazing. We entered EV60 just in case, but since we have successfully jumped around EV80 and are doing 85cm confidently at home, I’m hoping that that was more cautionary a measure than necessary. The downside is that she has become ridiculously hot and fit so some of the poor riding school kiddies had some, uh, interesting expriences.
Nell is feeling very good after her chiro appointment and has magically learned to stretch down. We are preparing her for the finals of YHPS, where we have to ride Novice 4. Insert sad noise here. Novice 4 is my least favourite of the Novice tests; I don’t find it very Nell-friendly. She finds most of it easy, so gets bored and decides to find something to spook at, and as for the lengthen canter – working canter transitions on a 15m circle… stuff that nightmares are made of. We survived it at Hollyberry Hall, though, so we’ll survive it at Fourways.
Bruno competed for the first time in the POG and 40cm at Fourways. He’d done so many shows just as a tagalong by then that he was pretty bombproof from the word go. We had two very tiny spooks (like, slow sideways jog) and a couple of little scoots forward when we nearly got mowed down by giant youngsters, but apart from that I can’t fault him. He stood quietly in the queue, didn’t look at a single fence, and cantered around his courses with floppy ears. I love him to smithereens. He’s been one of those horses that has changed me forever and even when he sells I’ll never forget him.
Lancelot is having a six-week break during his horse sickness rest period, which he needed. The chiro pronounced him sound and adorable (he’s a yard favourite), but his baby brain was cooking on the very gentle work we were doing. He does miss the attention, so I’m sure he’ll be happy again when we bring him back to work. I did have him walking and trotting in the big arena and giving a few steps of quiet canter in the ring, so we made good progress.
Sookie sadly has had to go back to her owner, having done a grand total of two walk and trot tests for her competitive career. The chiro found some calcification in her lumbar vertebrae, and while these weren’t painful, I think I’d known she was done before the chiro saw her. I am not an amazing trainer but I do get my horses somewhere and Sookie and I have been stuck in a rut for months. The horse is trying her best and I am trying my best but I always had the feeling like she physically couldn’t carry out my requests. Turns out that the L2 calcification makes her back practically motionless, so she isn’t able to work through her back at all. Thankfully, it’s not a painful ailment. She’s gone home to be a broodmare, and while I know she’ll do fine, it has been a sad ending to a four-year saga that was so full of hopes and dreams when it began. She was the first warmblood I sat on, the first client horse I was supposed to compete and when you’re 15 years old (Sookie and I go further back than Magic and I) and have never had anything bigger than 14.3hh that tends to set you dreaming.
Liana did her first show with her new little rider, popping through the POG and 40cm. I was extremely proud of the redhead – she has come such a long way from the anxious horse she was when she arrived. She packed her little kid around like an old hand, and the kid did great, remembering (most of) her courses and steering very well.
Quinni has progressed slowly but steadily, getting over some jitters during her third and fourth rides – nothing violent, I just had the feeling she wasn’t quite happy in her own skin – and is now walking fairly well around the ring. She is very obedient to all my aids, I just need her to really go forward confidently and then we’ll move on to trot. I’m excited for that because it trots like a Dutch warmblood.
Olive has been awesome. She is still a bit mouthy and uncertain of the bit, but she took the long-lines without incident and the rider with even less incident. She is such a friendly floofy. Now looking for a lease home, we’ll continue her training and hopefully have walk and trot before too long. We do have walk, kind of, although she requires a lot of motivation – either lots and lots of flapping and kicking, or her favourite person standing a few feet away and calling her.
All glory to the King.
Can I just say that stadium eventing is really fun? It’s like eventing, but with less hard. Hence I was very excited to go to Winstead for their stadium event the weekend after a cross-country schooling in the same arena – a perfect opportunity to start rebuilding Arwen’s confidence after our ignominous failures earlier in the year, and for Liana to go across country in competition for the first time.
Liana did the 60cm and 70cm and was stellar. I had her back in the snaffle after using a sweet iron gag for a while, and my coach’s suggestion proved to be right on the money. She was much less fussy in her mouth and gave me two very sane and relaxed rounds. Ana is just a pleasure to have at shows – she walks into the arena all business and happily packed my butt around.
I did have my neck strap, though, because Liana has quite a pop and tends to use it over scary fences. She only threw one overjump all day, though. In the 60cm we had a very foolish little stop that was more of a steering issue than a disobedience and finished with a very reasonable time, too, even though I was letting her set the pace. (Or maybe because I was letting her set the pace…). The course was inviting but not soft and she really rose to the occasion.
The 70cm was a definite step up, with this being my rider frightener of the day. This little trailer/table was quite low but looked max width and I do so love staring down into spreads. Liana, however, didn’t have a qualm about it and jumped it already angled for the next fence – a drop, which she was excellent about. She was gutsy to everything except a white skinny in the shade, where she had a look and I booted her over, taking the pole for four penalties that just kept us out of the placings. This was probably our last competition together for some time, as two days before her new little person had signed the papers for a lease with option to buy, praise God!
Arwen was also extremely spooky to the white skinny, but apart from that she ate the course alive. She had warmed up a little spooky, but something about walking into the arena engaged dragon mode and it was all I could do to stay on and steer. I don’t think I have ever ridden a course that fast in my life and I spent most of my time sitting back yelling “Steady!” while she tore around like a maniac. It was good enough for a clear round with no time penalties, though, so we very merrily went through to the jump-off.
It was just my coach and I in the jump-off, so it followed that of course we would make two newbie errors to the absolute delight of the spectators. Coach went first and rode a stunning round on her youngster apart from completely forgetting about the last fence, ending up with four penalties for her circle. She had handed it to me on a silver platter, except that Arwen tore around the course and then threw in a rebellious stop at the white skinny, making us a few seconds slower for second place. I was not too upset – I’ll come second to my coach any day.
I had also (somewhat reluctantly) entered the 80cm on coach’s urging, but I’ll admit it was one of those courses where you stay as far as possible away from the jumps when you’re walking just in case you get close enough to see how big they are. This course was again inviting and started gently but built up to some very legitimate challenges for EV80, including a dyke, drop, max height rolltop, and a scary related distance of a hanging log down a steep bank to a large house in about four or five strides. And of course the showjumps were 85cm, the biggest fences I’ve ever jumped in competition.
Arwen was still on fire after her victory lap, so we came thundering at number one and then spooked violently. I applied whip, spurs and voice with alacrity and Arwen popped over and then hit her stride and started to settle, taking the fences more in her stride. The hanging log to house proved to be one of her nicest and quietest efforts on course – she didn’t turn a hair. We had a look at the dyke, but I brought her in very quietly so she had enough time to process it and popped neatly over. The max height rolltop was cause for absolutely no drama,
and we were charging merrily along when I forgot my line to number 14 (still kicking myself) and sliced a corner too fine, presenting Arwen at the biggest fence on course at an angle. Arwen was like um no and threw in a stop, which wasn’t that dirty but I gave her a smack anyway because she has no need to get ideas about stopping. We reapproached and she popped over just fine, had another look at the last fence and tapped the pole. That finished us with 8 jump penalties and 10 time, which I did not think was too shoddy for our first EV80 considering our history with eventing.
This show really kind of confirmed the change I’m trying to make in my attitude. We rode into that arena with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our goals to do with hearts instead of ribbons, and the horses and I were all just happy and comfortable in our own skins. It turned out, as it so often does, to be one of our most successful shows, too.
He meant it when He said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” Glory to the King I seek.
So April and May happened.
There’s a lot to recap, so we’ll keep it short.
Magic went to his second graded show; I made a whoopsie in the first class and landed feet-first in the oxer. Then I made exactly the same whoopsie in the second class and landed bum-first in the combination. Apparently one shouldn’t drop Magic at the scariest fence on course. Who knew, right?
Poor old Magic was unphased, albeit somewhat confused about why Mom had so suddenly dismounted. After a lesson and a mild scolding from my coach about the fact that perfect horses must be ridden perfectly, we went to a training show in May and jumped two perfectly clear rounds without batting an eyelash.
My confidence suffered only the most minor of knocks. Magic is that one horse that always has me smiling – even in this shot taken in the second class of our disastrous show.
Arwen went to Nooitie Nationals and proceeded to win every class she entered.
The showjumping. The dressage.
The pairs. And then, National Champion in hand.
The only thing she didn’t win was the show riding, which she could have if she hadn’t had a violent head flip in the rein back. Well, we won’t be showing a rein back again… despite getting a 6.5 on the same movement in dressage.
Nell also went to Nationals and raked in her fair share of ribbons. She won her in-hand class,
the pairs, one of her two dressage tests, and the novice show hunter.
Then in May we went to Hollyberry Hall for the third leg of the YHPS and completed with 64%. As usual, we were dead last, but considering that the second-to-last horse had 64.1%, I won’t complain; she’s a pony with a green rider and she’s standing her ground amongst the best. Also, that’s a 4% increase from our last YHPS. I’ll take it!
Exavior was turned out to pasture to await being gelded, whereupon he will be brought back into work and backed. He put on an inch to reach 16.0 hands and became more gorgeous than ever.
The pregnant fairies, Cherry and Milady, continue to glow with pregnancy. Milady was briefly brought back into work when she had a client interested in her and behaved impeccably for a 6yo thoroughbred that had been out of work for half a year, but sadly it was not to be. Or not sadly. I still get a cute baby in October, so maybe we shouldn’t complain too loud.
Bruno went to his first show at Nationals and took everything in his stride. He loaded, travelled, and behaved perfectly. He only did in-hand, during which he was so relaxed that the ring steward had to hit him with a clipboard to make him trot up. Later in the weekend I hacked him around an empty warmup arena and he barely bothered to waggle his giant ears. He also did a few lessons with the smaller kiddies that are just off the lead and trotting on the lunge line. Albeit having slightly erratic steering, he proved to be as safe as a house and his slow steady rhythm was perfect for the tiny tots.
Lancelot had his first ride, a momentous occasion that turned out to be a non-event. He was very stuck with going forward when asked, but followed the Head Groom around with myself on his back without batting an eyelash. I was chagrined; I had expected some craziness from him, but he was as quiet as they come.
Big old Sookie’s tripping improved, so we were able to move on to cantering. Her transitions were truly dreadful (ever tried flailing *and* being crooked *and* almost falling *and* crashing onto the forehand all at once?) but the canter itself is her best quality gait. We also shipped her out to Hollyberry Hall for a schooling session when we took Nell; she loaded great and travelled fairly well (a little anxious but very well behaved). At the Hall I took the precaution of lunging her – she is huge and I still don’t quite trust her not to fall on her nose if she decides to jump or spin – but it wasn’t necessary. She was looky, but sane, controllable, and totally nonviolent despite being in a big and quite spooky indoor. Good Sookie!
Whisper had her photo shoot done and was snapped up in short order. Before she went, we progressed to cantering on the correct lead and then to jumping. We even took her to her first show and did ground poles. The organisation and layout was terrible, so the round didn’t go too well, but despite being severely anxious Whisper didn’t get violent once. That’s a truly safe horse right there.
Finally, Liana jumped her first 70cm under me and came sixth in a massive class. In May, she also jumped her first 80cm with me and took a couple of poles but was brave to every fence.
Then she did another 60 and 70cm at Nationals with her kid, snagging the National Champion Showjumper title without apparent effort.
She rounded off the show by jumping her first working hunter round, where she had a spot of bother at the straw bales but did not appear at all phased by the banks.
Another chaotic month at Morning Star Stables, and all our adventures for the glory of our King.
Having ridden five clear rounds at 70cm on Magic (yes, five) I finally decided that it was time for him to jump graded. We picked a small and low-profile show nearby for this, which fortunately ran a training show as well, so I could haul some of the kids along too.
Magic was nervous for exactly 5 minutes of his initial warm up, where I rode him around the training warmup with the kids to make sure everyone’s brains were on. After that he went straight to work, lolloping over the tiny crosses and looking faintly bored. He had one fairly dramatic spook, nearly landing on top of Vastrap and his lease kid, but got over it remarkably quickly. Then, to my dismay, I found the way to the graded warmup. It was terrifying. A twisty, windy little path leading past the Manure Heap of Death, traversing the Cursed Stable Yard, heading into the Dark Woods and then passing (gasp!) the Water Feature of Doom. Magic doesn’t even do hacks. This was a spooky trail of terror and I was pretty sure the entire show was about to go severely downhill. Resigning myself to our fate, I left the kiddies with the Mutterer and began the trek.
I needn’t have worried. Magic was, obviously, petrified. So was I, but we kept it together just fine. All he did was stop and stare at things, snort once, and then keep going when I asked. We made it to the warmup in one piece, whereupon my stomach did a nasty little flip; the edge of the warmup was a few trees and a fence away from the main road, down which trucks and motorbikes were roaring and screeching. Once again, I wrote off the show in my head, and once again, Magic was a pro. He sort of wiggled his ears at it and then went directly to work, the angel. He really is starting to grow up. We had a lovely warmup, with one random little stop at the oxer (we both just fluffed the stride; he came right around and popped over it again) before I quickly walked the course. It was lovely – a decent height, but going easy on the filler. The only really scary thing was the second element of the combination, which had quite dramatic wings and was an oxer, but it was a two-stride and I had a feeling Magic would be just fine. Wings aren’t generally an issue for him.
There were only two horses in the class, which kept things even more low-key. The first horse jumped an easy, powerful clear, and then we were cantering down to the start of our very first graded showjumping track ever. Magic locked onto the first fence and took me straight over and all was beautiful from there onwards, except for the first element of the scary combination. I didn’t see the distance and just looked up and hoped for the best; Magic squished in a tiny half stride and a bunny hop, reached the second element at the most ploddy canter ever, and flowed over it without further ado. The rest of the course just slipped by under him and we were into the jump-off. This was simple, over the first 6 fences without any funky turns, and we basically went straight back in and did it. The other horse had a very careful clear round. I asked Magic to go up a gear and he hit a really nice forward rhythm, which carried us beautifully around the course. With his better stride he jumped the combination without batting an eyelid and I knew he’d done well when we galloped through the finish.
Magic won the class by 11 seconds. He also won a scary bag of fly stuff, so we had a very dignified lap of honour at the working trot while I held the bag where he couldn’t see it and prayed that it wouldn’t make any noises. We hurried back down to the training arena just in time for Liana to cart me around the 30cm, a warmup round to ensure she didn’t overjump her kid off, and totally unnecessary. She was calm and ready from the get-go. The kids and ponies went on to be awesome and kick butt; they did the 40-60cm classes, with Vastrap and his kid winning the 40cm and Liana and her kid coming second in the 50cm. And Vastrap only ran away once, which in his defence his kid appeared to greatly enjoy. (The Mutterer, less so).
Then it was back up the Trail of Doom for Magic’s second class. This time he was very chilled about the whole thing. Towards the end of the warmup I could feel him flagging slightly, so we did as little cantering as we could. I did put the warmup fences up to about 80cm as the next class was an accumulator and the joker was about as high and wide as the Great Wall of China, except that the Great Wall of China doesn’t have huge wings or terrifying flower boxes. I deliberated jumping it, but decided that if Magic felt good we would try it – go big or go home, right?
And felt good he did. He walked into the show ring with floppy ears like an old hand and willingly charged at number one, flowing around the course at a steady pace. It had a few very tricky little turns in it, but I sat down on him and he made them all easily, even angling one of the jumps without a care in the world. We had a really unfortunate rail at number seven. We didn’t even hit it on a bad stride; I think I just didn’t give him enough juice for it and he was a little tired, so he tapped it with his right front toe and down it went. Then we came around the corner and the joker was sitting in front of us. I was absolutely wetting myself, but Magic had already locked onto it, so I rode him at it with a prayer in my (very dry) mouth and he jumped it perfectly.
And I mean perfectly.
Any show where Magic goes home with four functional legs and a stomach that works is a good one, and this was an awesome one. He was so mature, so steady, and jumped beautifully. All horses and riders involved had a blast and we even got a smile out of the Mutterer.
And glory and praise and thanks to our beloved, beloved King Jesus. ❤
Whew. What a show! God walked with us every step of the way and with all our highs and lows, we still had an absolute blast.
It kicked off really well with Nell winning Supreme Champion Purebred Nooitgedachter Mare, again. She started out really fresh and bouncy, but by the championship classes she had settled right down and stood up quietly for inspection, which is a first for Nell. Obviously she had to do her obligatory hair flip and sideways canter during the victory lap, though.
Not to be outdone, Liana came second in her very strong in-hand class, being absolutely angelic for her adorable kid.
Arwen was Champion Sport Horse In Hand, but in all fairness this was not very hard, considering she was the only one. She was impeccably behaved and all the judge could go on about was how she looks so much like Nell and whether I was sure that they’re not related. (All judges please note: 1. Yes, I am sure I have the right horse. 2. No, they are not related. 3. Yes, I am sure about that, too. What do you want, a DNA profile?)
Show riding was somewhat less successful. Unfortunately, there were no novice classes, so for show riding the greenies got lumped in with 12-year-old bombproof stallions ridden by old veterans who have been champions many times over. Nell wasn’t bad, for Nell – never naughty and I didn’t have to cling on for dear life at all – but she broke to canter a few times and was definitely not the image of the well-mannered, effortless-to-ride showing horse. Fabulous, yes. Quiet, not so much. Still, the judge said that she has great potential and will get there with more training and exposure; she has everything she needs, she’s just still kind of a baby. Also this random warmblood threw its rider and galloped into our arena while poor Nell was still walking around and trying to brain, from which she never really recovered.
Liana was tense about the whole new experience, but took awesome care of her kid. He got all his leads and diagonals perfectly for a well-deserved third place. She’s not really a show pony, but they both tried their guts out.
Arwen decided to redeem both the purebreds by being the picture of manners, elegance and obedience. She came third too, in a strong class, and was an absolute joy to ride – and I think she looked it.
In the end it was another stunning stallion bred by Arop Stud that was ridden supreme champion, as well as gelding champion in hand, working riding champion, and adults’ Novice dressage champion – in fact, Arop won almost every class it entered with the exception of the children’s and partbreds’ show riding.
Soon afterwards, it was off to go do the working hunter with Arwen. Going off alone turned out to be a stupid idea. Arwen spent her warmup doing handstands and going insane, at which point obviously the Mutterer pitched up and stared aghast as his most experienced rider and pony went broncing around the arena. We still hadn’t quite settled down yet when we came dragoning in to salute the judge, but this turned out to be a good thing as Arwen was much too fired up to think of stopping and jumped a splendid clear round. We both had a blast. We were alone in our class and I stayed on and steered, so we were Partbred Working Hunter champions and got to go through to the Supremes on the Sunday.
Dressage was sturdy and uneventful; Liana and her kid got a little lost, but scraped their brains off the floor, got it together admirably and finished second. Nell was third out of three, but to be fair there must have been easily six years’ age difference between herself and her competitors (we will not mention the age difference between their riders). She obediently and willingly completed all the Novice 4 and 5 movements, including her first walk-canter transitions, 12m circles and leg-yields in competition, so I was totally happy with that. Arwen was again the only partbred to do Novice, so automatically won, scoring a respectable 60 for her first Novice 5.
To my great relief (and, it must be said, surprise) all three the girls had a peaceful night and behaved impeccably in their stables. Okay, so Arwen kicked the door and woke up all the fancy horses and their grooms at 5:30am because she was hungry, but that is still impeccable for Arwen. (Dragons don’t live in stables). We started the morning all fresh and chirpy, with the possible exception of the longsuffering Morning Star Stables Groom, who had been rained on in the night. Nell was a lunatic waiting to go in for pre-judging but managed to put her brain back in her head by the time she went in and stood remarkably still during the incredibly long and boring in-hand class. I like in-hand, but 37 horses? That makes for a lot of standing in the line-up.
Straight afterwards I was onto Arwen for the working hunter supremes, which was a blast. Arwen warmed up raring to go, threatened to kick somebody’s valuable hunter and stormed into the arena with smoke coming out of her nose. I, starstruck and petrified, had to try three times to get the correct lead. That done, we jumped the three smallest fences at 60cm in the boring but functional course I had walked for us. She was extremely looky to the first two fences, so they didn’t look awfully pretty, but she left them standing. The third fence was beautiful – she just flowed over it and galloped her heart out. We trotted up to the judge, saluted, and left the arena before I could hyperventilate. We came nowhere in the placings, fairly obviously, but it was a blast. The only really bad part was standing in the line-up – I had to repeatedly yank on my horse because she was trying to eat the iconic Bob Charter arena.
Nell was next up for the in-hand breed supreme championships. For this she was once again very well-mannered and patient. We didn’t finish in the top 10, but this turned out not to be such a bad thing as being excused early was the only way we made it to our YHPS dressage class on time.
The Young Horse Performance Series is something that newbs do not do, but, being a newb, I didn’t get this memo and entered it in a fit of reckless enthusiasm. When I saw my name lined up alongside the likes of our WEG competitors and South African champions, I figured it was way too late to pull out and I may as well show up. This is exactly what we did. Nell, the smallest horse in the class, one of few South African breds and the only non-warmblood or Friesian of the entire show, had a total meltdown in the warmup arena. To be fair, we both did. We were already tense when we walked in and then Chere Burger rode past (perfectly – she is a joy to watch) and my nerves got the better of me. Poor old Nell and I spooked around and around the warmup until eventually with a deep breath and a prayer I got a hold of myself and my horse and we settled down. She was going beautifully when the announcer called us in (stumbling over the Afrikaans Nooitgedachter names). Some poor kind lady pointed out to be that there was daylight between my horse and my girth, I fixed it, and in we went.
Nell has never felt better. She came down the centre line a little crooked and a little above the bit, but confident, relaxed, and happy. She threw her quarters out to the right a little in the halt and I looked up at the square of sky beyond the judges’ box and saluted my God. And after that none of the big names mattered; what mattered was the horse, and this next movement, and the dance.
That fantastic young horse went out there and did the Nooitgedachter breed proud. Sure, she was a little crooked, and a little stiff, and a little on the forehand, but with her green rider and all she stood up to that excellent company she was in. We finished dead last, but with a respectable 59.6% – 1.4% behind the second-to-last horse. The judge complimented her willingness, obedience, and good nature. She tried her guts out and I was really proud of her.
With that, three very tired Nooitie mares, four equally tired Hydes, a relatively chuffed Mutterer and the exhausted Groom went home. And thanked our God. ❤
Show photos by Fine Photography
The 10th January training show at one of my favourite venues was a no-brainer for the first show of 2016. I spent the days leading up to the show dead nervous. Recently back in work, Magic was performing brilliantly; he jumped everything I pointed him at in style and sensibly, and I was confident he’d make short work of the little classes I’d chosen for him. But the last time we showed Magic was when he colicked so badly and I had no way of being absolutely sure that he wouldn’t do it again.
Still, we had the all-clear from the vet, and armed with drums of water and ample nets of the best hay we could find, the Mutterer and I braved the challenge with Magic and Liana. It was Liana’s first show over fences but I wasn’t overly worried about her. She had been jumping 80cm at home without a moment’s hesitation; her first combinations and oxers had gone effortlessly. She has a natural eye and enthusiasm for jumping, which, combined with her careful technique and abundant scope, is going to make her one epic eventing pony.
Magic was very nervous to load but consented to get in without too much of a fight, and once Liana had pretty much self-loaded, we were off. Both travelled very well and got off relaxed and ready. I was a different story – late, as usual. Luckily the Mutterer saved my butt by having the little mare saddled by the time I got back from entering.
Liana was bright-eyed but quiet as I walked her to the warmup, but once we got there, my heart sank. It had poured the night before in Kyalami and the arena was basically underwater. All three practice fences had approaches and landings in water and Liana has never been asked to deal with water before. Figuring that at least she’d learn something if I spent the entire morning just getting her into a puddle, I climbed on, walked her around on the dry perimeter, and then aimed her for the water. Liana strode over, dropped her nose to have a sniff, and walked right through it, without any trouble.
The little Nooitie proceeded to be completely awesome for the rest of the show. She galloped through the water, jumped in and out of it without batting an eye, and spooked at exactly nothing. We went into the 30cm feeling good; she had a good look at the few jumps with filler in them and overjumped everything by miles, but never stopped, shied, or bolted. She did have one violent wiggle over the first element in a related distance, resulting in my saddle (even its XW gullet being insufficient for Liana’s considerable girth) slithering horribly down her side; the adrenalin rush was such that in five strides I had kicked it straight again and we made it over the next fence without further ado.
The 40cm was even better, and by the 50cm, she was ready for anything. She jumped sensibly, behaved beautifully and would probably have won it if she hadn’t misjudged one fence, rushed a little and brought the rail down with her hind toes. Unfortunate, but not bad at all for a first show over fences. For the rest of the show she was completely calm, happy, and well behaved.
The same could not be said for Magic when the Mutterer brought him up to the warmup. I could spot my horse from inside the show ring: he was flying on the end of his lead like a kite, striking out dramatically with his forelegs, his tail stuck straight up in the air. The less-than-impressed Mutterer gratefully clutched at his precious Nooitie, opining that “your horse is not right in his head”. I thought better of asking for advice because the Mutterer’s thunderous expression suggested that any advice from him may include a bullet, so I just got my reins and got on my horse. Or the leaping thing that my horse had morphed into, anyway. Wherever Magic was in his head, it wasn’t a quiet warmup arena at a training show; there were dragons, and he was scared, and he was going ballistic.
He napped extravagantly, shooting backwards towards the gate, threatening to rear when I put my heels in him and throwing his head madly when I touched the reins. He was hypersensitive to everything; he struck out with his forelegs constantly and shied at the most random little things. But he never bucked or tried anything malicious. So I did the only thing one really can do with Magic; sat tight, closed my calves very gently around his side, and spoke to him until my voice penetrated the darkness in his head. At length, he stopped reversing and took one tentative, dancing step forward. Then another. Every step floated; he felt like a bubble, as if my smallest movement might burst him. But he kept going all the way around the arena, splashing through the water, and slowly he started to come back.
The work settled him by degrees. Once he was walking more like a horse, I gently coaxed him up to the trot, and we trotted until his brain came back and he put his little nose down and concentrated. From the trot we jumped the cross-rail a couple of times; he overjumped wildly, but I just stayed out of his face and a few jumps calmed him some more. Before we could address the canter, it was time to go in for our class.
This was somewhat disastrous. Bits of the arena were dry and other bits were damp; all the footing was safe, but Magic considered the lighter, dry bits to be terrifying. He shot backwards across the arena again, shaking his head, dancing sideways, shying at shadows. We stopped at the first fence because he was spooking at the dry ground behind it, then deer leaped it. The rest of the course was much the same. It was 50cm and he trotted, flailed, leapt and generally forgot how to horse. One thing was for sure, at least: we had absolutely no poles down.
After that we went straight back into the warmup and cantered around, and his brain, thankfully, continued to come back. We popped over the vertical and oxer several times and Magic started to breathe at last with his little fluttery OTTB snort at the end of each stride. Going back in for the 60cm, I at least did not have to beg my horse down to the start, but he did refuse the first fence again. I brought him back calmly and he jumped it. About four fences in, he landed in a canter and stayed in his nice smooth rhythmic canter that was custom-made for showjumping. The rest of the course went beautifully; he took a deep breath and relaxed and my horse was back. I did make a mistake at the last fence by asking him for the longer distance as he approached – a habit; he prefers a long spot – and he gave it to me along with about a metre of additional height, landing so hard my hat fell over my eyes, but we’d made it through another class and he was feeling better and better.
Warming up for the 70cm was like riding at home. He doddled around on the buckle, sneered at the silly horses that wouldn’t go into the water, and jumped everything flawlessly, obediently, passionately the way only he can. Going into the class he had never felt so good. We were the first combination in, so we walked up to the spooky judge’s box at a flowing dressagey walk. I closed my hands and knees ever so slightly and he stepped up into the most perfect square halt. With a leisurely salute, we opened the class. The announcer enquired, “Is this Magical Flight?” in tones of disbelief.
He has never jumped a class as well as he jumped that one. We galloped the longer stretches, collected up perfectly for the related distances. He never looked at a thing; all he had to know about a fence was which side to jump it from and he was over. I fluffed my approach to the combination; he took the long spot and saved my ungrateful bottom. I caught him in the mouth a little, he overjumped and landed smack in the middle of this little one-stride and Magic bounced out with not a second thought. He is a horse in a million. What am I saying? He’s one of a kind. I nearly cried when we loped through the start and fell on his neck hugging him and thanking God because I don’t deserve him. Nobody does. Nobody ever could. But he’s mine, and I can never feel not good enough for him again, because I’ll never give up on him and for Magic that is enough.
The best part? He ate, drank, and pooped with the best of ’em. He came home, ate his grass, had grated apple for dinner and went back to life without missing a beat. My horse – oh, but he could never be; God’s horse – is back and he’s just fine. And the two weeks of suffering that we both endured – he in his own pain and discomfort and confusion, mine in the agony of empathy – the horrible ordeal that could have ended in tragedy – it was turned around and made to work for us because we serve an amazing God. Magic and I have never been closer. We didn’t quit on each other and we both know it and we never will.
It sounds a sentimental, perhaps. But with the strong smooth curve of his neck in my arms, with the power of the pulse in his neck beating against my skin, sentimental can be true.
Thank You Lord for Your amazing love.
I have been a very bad blogger, so now for my punishment I shall write lengthy picture-heavy updates on everything with four legs on this place. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if that’s your punishment or mine, but I digress.
We’ll start with Arwen because she begins with A and is anyway ever the busy and cheerful member of the Horde. And while we’re on the subject of Arwie, we may as well include the rest of the fat, fluffy, nerdy Nooitgedachters.
Arwen had her six weeks off after her AHS shot from the beginning of September to mid-October, whereupon I promptly entered her in a show at the end of October, giving us a whole two weeks to prepare for it. As usual, Arwen came back from her rest snorting and plunging and leaping like a dragon, but stronger and more supple in her mind and body. She always seems to remember her good habits and forget half the bad ones during her time off (no, you can’t have her). Apart from a few interesting little moments in the first few days back in work (like an idiot, I jumped straight back on my fiery mare with not a day’s lunging; amazingly I am still alive), she was awesome all the way through.
At the dressage show (which was at Hope Riding, venue of one of our first shows ever), I had my two greenies standing about like school horses while my seasoned campaigner leapt about snorting at things and threatening to kill somebody. Arwen was a maniac in the warmup arena. We basically galloped around while I clung on for dear life, spooking at drains. She prompted an instructor to quirk an eyebrow as I whizzed helplessly past, lean down and whisper in her companion’s ear: “That is a very hot horse.”
When we got to the dressage arena, I felt like an idiot. Evidently my two weeks’ preparation had not been enough and I was about to get bucked off in front of the whole stableyard, which is a fairly new stableyard and holds me in rather excessive esteem. Arwen dragoned along the edge of the arena and was barely persuaded to halt in front of the judges’ box; I grimaced at the judge and said, “I’m sorry, I brought my event horse today. My dressage horse stayed home.” The judge politely accepted the apology and we trotted off to A, came down the centreline and landed an 8. From then on it was all pie. Arwen was relaxed, obedient, submissive and ever so slightly smug at my amazement. An instructor, watching our test, turned to my mom and said, “She’ll never be great at dressage. She’s not forward going enough.”
She scored 68% for Novice 1 and her personal best of 74% for Novice 2. That would have been 26 penalties in eventing – I’ll take that any day. Arwen won a fly mask and twirled maddeningly while we tried to bandage her up for travel, demanding to know where the cross-country was. She was so excited that when I grabbed her lead and ran into the horsebox she trotted right up next to me before even noticing where she was actually going. She was infuriated to find out that we were going home instead of across country.
Our first horse trial of the season is in two weeks’ time and I feel good about it. We have had appalling heat and I haven’t conditioned her as much as I would have liked, and we’re moving up to EV70, but Arwen has been giving me some really solid work. Her dressage is on point (absolutely nothing wrong with willingness to go forward…), she’s been jumping 1.00m at home without batting an eyelid (seriously, she hasn’t had a single stop since I brought her back into work, and even lands on whichever lead I ask now), and while she isn’t as fit as I would like, her galloping has really improved. She gallops with a rhythm that a dressage judge would approve of. We still have trouble jumping out of a gallop stride, but at least in between fences her little legs can make up some ground. I think it’s going to be a boatload of fun and if we survive cross-country and I keep my act together, we should even do better than last time. The goal is simple: survive. My secret goal is to finish on my dressage score, but considering it’s a move up, I would be very happy to complete.
Nell has some extremely exciting news: she’s moved in with me. For some time the Mutterer and I have been discussing how awesome it would be if Nell stayed with me so that I can spend more time on schooling, and so that showing logistics would be far easier. It’s an 80-minute round trip to go pick her up on a show morning, and when does anyone have 80 spare minutes on a show morning? Added to that, I only make it out to her owner’s place at most twice a week. It has been adequate so far (if getting a horse from unbacked to Novice in a year can be considered merely “adequate”, considering my level of experience – she’s just something else), but now I’m stoked to be able to put more work in her. Nell is a phenomenal mare from her tremendous movement to her striking looks to her amazing mind, and the dressage world had just better watch out.
Nell also went to the show with Arwen. She was quite well-behaved, until her stablemate Liana was busy showing, at which point she ran around in her paddock yelling, and especially angelic to travel. In the warmup she was a complete loon, but judging by Arwie’s behaviour it must have been a very spooky arena for some reason. We got to the dressage arena and I was fed up with insane young horses and ready to pack her royal fatness back to the stud to have babies for the rest of her life, but then suddenly Nell decided that she was done with nonsense and was going to show the world what she can do. The world, in this case, consisted of the dressage judge, my family, the photographer, an the show organisers (everyone else had gone home by this point), but she was still amazing. She landed 65% in Novice 1 and 67% in Novice 2, without any apparent effort. The judge’s socks were knocked off. I botched half the movements in terms of accuracy because I was in survival mode and focused on keeping my baby horse’s feet on the ground and brain in her noggin, but I needn’t have been. Accuracy points are stupid to lose but at least easy to fix, so I’ll take it.
Interestingly, the first time I rode her in my arena, Nell was perfect. Not spooky, not looky, and certainly not leapingly crazy the way she can be at shows. But the first time I rode her in my arena with people watching, she was extremely nervous for the first few minutes. She even napped for the first time in her life, refusing to enter the arena at all; we backed up about 40m before I persuaded her to go forward and then she was obedient if a little worried. Stage fright? It seems ludicrous, but the coincidence is too great to ignore, so I’ll be experimenting with the idea in future.
Liana, Nell’s beautiful chestnut stablemate, came along to live with me as well. Ana is being sold and is wonderful so buy her. This dressage show was her first (or at least her first in several years), and she put the more experienced horses to shame by loading the best, standing the most nicely, and behaving the most calmly out of all of them. She is a sensitive ride, but oh so honest and sweet and levelheaded. I was extremely proud of her. Due to a frustrating old training issue that is improving but was worsened by her slight tension at the show, she had trouble lengthening her strides appropriately and came across rushed and choppy, so her scores were 56 and 58% in the first two Prelim tests, but she was extremely obedient. She did everything I asked and didn’t spook at a thing. Despite rushing, she didn’t pull and never threatened to get out of control. She will make some sweet little girl very happy. So if you are a sweet little girl, start pestering your parents.
Once at my place, she also handled my arena with aplomb and we set to doing some jumping, to which she is better suited. She has a powerful jump and is as game as they come to the fences, although we do need to work on her habit of taking a rather long distance when she jumps from a canter. She’s insanely careful, though – I would really not mind taking her across country and I’m paranoid about what kind of jumper I’ll take across country.
Vastrap went to a show in the end of September where he behaved like a maniac the whole time I was on him. I believe somebody, somewhere along the line, allowed him to run madly at fences and the old bad habit rears its ugly head on occasion. He was never malicious – even when going at a stupid pace over fences, or when he took a wild distance and I landed on his neck, he never once bucked, ever. He also didn’t stop at a single thing or ever actually bolt. He just pulled and hung his legs midair and pulled poles like it was going out of fashion. So I grounded him for at least two months and we have spent the last several weeks schooling, at a trot, over ground poles. It’s frustating because the little dude is really a talented jumper and I would love to event him, but I’ll take a careless horse across country over my dead body, probably literally. He’s also been doing some lessons with a rather fearless but very kind and soft young rider, which helps him learn to put up with things.
As for him and Mom, well, he morphs into his usual wonderful self. With my beginner parent aboard, Vastrap is the dearest and kindest and most patient little plod you ever saw. He could be a gentleman among angels. That’s what counts, so he can yank me into jumps as much as he pleases, he is still amazing.
And then a couple of weeks ago I bought Bruno, the first resale project I’ve actually owned for myself.
I love schooling ponies, and resale has always appealed to me because owning the horse gives you all the freedom you could desire to train him the way you want to, but you can still make a profit out of it in the end if you’re careful (and God wills it). I also believe there is a need in the market for safe, well schooled competition ponies in the medium price range. There are far too many dishonest sellers out there, and they (usually unknowingly) put little kids’ lives at risk. As for those that know, I support Jesus’s position – it would be better for them to have a millstone hanged about their necks and thrown into the sea, than to harm any one of these little ones!
Unfortunately the really nice ponies are exorbitantly priced, and with good reason. Good care and schooling should be rewarded. However, I’m in the blessed position to be able to keep my horses very cheaply due to my location, cheap bulk deliveries of hay due to the cattle, and my parents’ owning the farm. (Somehow horses that come to my place also magically get fat; I have no real idea why but I’m certainly not complaining). I’m also young, not steeped in experience, and virtually unknown, so nobody is going to pay me insane amounts of money for schooling, so I can keep prices in the medium range and still cream a little something off the top. In theory. We shall see how it works in practice.
Hence, Bruno. He is the most adorable little bay Nooitie pony I ever saw in my life. The Mutterer bred him in 2012 and I remember thinking that he was the most powerful-looking foal I’d ever seen. His parents were both amazingly quiet horses (I remember riding his sire, a mature breeding stallion, bareback and bridleless away from his mares; he followed the Mutterer without even a halter, quiet as a schoolie), and he currently stands somewhere around 13.3, so he should make a perfect pony-rider height – around 14.1. He also has a cute head, solid conformation, and a willing brain, so I liked him from the start. Bruny is to stay with me for somewhere between a year and two years, depending on his progress and my financial situation and God’s will.
Always dependent on God’s will.