On Duty and Insurance

Today I’d like to talk about something that I feel strongly about, and forgive me if I get a little passionate. I almost wrote “It’s something that the sport needs to hear”, but actually, the sport is generally quite good about this. This is something that the average rider needs to hear. The one-horse rider, perhaps on a bit of a budget, perhaps just having two ponies on a plot somewhere, perhaps the parent watching their kid pop around at SANESA – the ordinary, average horse owner that makes up the vast and overwhelming majority of horse owners in South Africa today.

The something is this: your horse should be insured.

It expands into this: your retired horse should also be insured.

 

This is Magic. Say hi, Magic.

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Magic is 11. Magic is also retired. There’s nothing really wrong with him physically, except ordinary OTTB stuff – his feet are a little flat and he’s got a bit of KS going on. We showjumped a bit, and for about four out of five shows he would be amazing and perfect. But that one out of five, he would do one of two things: he would fly backwards across the arena gasping in abject and genuine panic for half an hour, or he would get home and colic. It wasn’t fair on him anymore, so now he decorates the lawn, and has done so for two years.

In short, Magic is worth approximately R0.00. More accurately, he’s worth about -R1500 every month, conservatively, and only because we live on the farm and have grazing.

Magic also has a five-figure vet bill sitting on my desk.

Magic’s vet bill will be paid. Because you just can’t put a price tag on some things, and the horse you retired is one of them. You see, Magic never won any real ribbons and never really got me anywhere when it came to riding. He left me with a collection of bad habits and frayed nerves and two big fat RFs on my record – at the same show. But Magic gets the best of everything. He is a shiny, round, happy 7.5/10 on the condition scale year-round; his teeth are done, his feet are done, and he has all of his shots every year. I don’t spend as much time with him as I would like because at some point I do have to work in order to keep providing him with his happy, lazy existence, but every morning he gets a carrot and a hug and I like to think he still knows that I care about him.

It’s not really about what he thinks of me, though. I don’t take care of him because I’m a warm and fuzzy person. I do it because I honestly owe it to him to give him the best and happiest life he possibly could have and even if I succeed for many years then I will still forever be in his debt.

Magic never shaped me as a rider. He shaped me as a human being.

Magic never won ribbons, but he won my heart. He didn’t teach me very much about showjumping, but he taught me about life, during a tempestuous time as I struggled with the insurmountable challenge that is adolescence. He taught me to forgive myself for scars, for pain, for being a broken piece of humanity in a broken world. He taught me to breathe deep and slow. He taught me that there’s so much more to life than success and so much more to the sport than winning. And so much more to horses than competing.

He didn’t give me all that much pleasure in the saddle or any great pride or victory or prestige. He gave me so much more. He gave me hope. He gave me forgiveness. He gave me tenderness. He gave me the power to understand my own rattled and anxious soul.

He’s not just a horse or a fine companion or even a best friend. He’s an instrument of God.

Magic gave me a part of who I am, a good and loving and compassionate part.

A thousand vet bills will never, ever be enough to pay him back.

 

Here’s the bottom line. It doesn’t actually matter how lyrical I can wax about how much I love my priceless retiree or what he’s done for me. Of course I wanted to save him when he colicked this week. The fact remains that if he hadn’t been insured, all the wanting in the world wouldn’t have done a thing. Even what I have done was almost not enough; he needed a surgery that I couldn’t have paid for – to be fair, these surgeries extend into six figures – and it’s only by God’s grace that he’s still with us.

I didn’t have him insured for that kind of money. But I had him insured for something; enough that he could be in hospital on a drip and receiving professional, round-the-clock care by someone who wasn’t emotional, drained, and ultimately out of their depth. This time, it was enough. You better believe he’s getting better insurance in case there is a next time.

This is the real value of insurance. Not something to protect your financial investment, but something to save the horses that financially aren’t really worth saving; the horses that gave you everything and now stand in a field somewhere, hopefully with you, a bit old and ugly and broken. They gave you their hearts. Now it’s your turn.

I’m talking to you, average rider on your average horse. You the lady doing Prelim or EV60 on a Boerperd or an OTTB or a nondescript little bay horse of uncertain ancestry and deep, gentle eyes. You the daddy paying for your kid to ride. You the doting horse mom with two Shetlands in your backyard, piggy-fat and eating carrots and thriving. You all feed your horse enough and make sure he’s dry in the rain, but are you ready for a colic surgery? Are you ready for a night at the vet hospital? Are you ready for diagnostics, treatments, drips?

Medical aid starts as cheaply as R160 per month. If you can compete in one single training show class or eat out once a month, you can afford this.

I shouldn’t really be asking you if you’re ready to pay to save your horse. Rather, I should ask you this: Are you ready to watch your horse die because you can’t?

 

Momentuous Update

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

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summer sunrises… love letters from God ❤

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We said goodbye to our beloved David.

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

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

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

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Glory to the King.

More Photo Dumping

It’s an unashamed photo dump. But it’s long overdue. Besides, a) I’m almost out of memory, b) the Internet needs more pictures of Morning Star horsies.

This is Bahroe, an Arab gentleman that I had a temporary ride on.


Bahroe lives at a beautiful yard, which was fun working at. Here he’s being watched from the stable by Sevita, who I also got to ride.

August came and went, bringing with it the atrocious combination of winds and shedding. On the bright side, Nugget took her first selfie. ❤

Eagle and L have been on a few hacks, kitted out in Eagle’s new stuff. He’s become something of a plod – anybody can hack him.

Blizzard also got new stuff, which fits him like a glove. I also love the cage stirrups for novice owners, especially considering Eagle’s mom had a stirrup-related crash. We don’t need any more of those, thanks.


I have given Milady to K for next year (and afterward). Ash is the priority to get in foal this year and K needs something for when Renè sells, and the two of them get along famously. So I took the two OTTB mares on a hack and they were both fabulous.

Thunny gained most of his condition back after taking a bit of a hit during August, as they often do. His coat testifies that it wasn’t all that much of a hit, too.

Blizzard and I did hours and hours of hacking, usually accompanied by Eagle and L. Blizzard is such a steady little chap, although he occasionally thought of kicking at Eagle, but never got as far as actually doing it.

My very nervous kid still hasn’t been back on a pony. I don’t push the issue. We spend a lot of time playing with in-hand utility and lungeing and grooming and herding cows. He’ll be ready when he’s ready.

These two little nuggets about 75% killed me going on a solid hour’s hack, accompanied by yours truly afoot, and constantly wanting to go up hills and trot and stuff. One of the most wonderful and painful hours of my life so far, methinks.

Beautiful Lisna found a new home as a happy hack for a truly lovely lady. She landed with her bum in the butter, but we definitely miss her – not least me because she was amazing in the riding school.

K and her mom still squeezed in a last hack on Eagle and Lisna as I tagged along behind on Savanna, to date the only TB I’m comfortable hacking.

I do still ride Eagle myself, too, and he’s angelic. The yard looks so manageable from here. Pocket-sized, as if I could scoop it all up in my hand and keep it safe. I can’t, but I’m glad I know Someone Who can.

Magic’s last day turned out without overreach boots – this was shortly before I found him literally covered in blood. It was all over his belly and hindlegs in great melodramatic splatters. It speaks to the horse’s action-prone nature that I wasn’t even panicked, just relieved that he was upright and still had four legs glued on. He’d overreached horrendously and it bled and bled. Now his special expensive booties stay on 24/7 and he refrains from ripping off his own coronary band.

Hacking with this lot. Fellowship on horseback under the glorious sun. ❤

I tried to give Faith an apple. She had no idea what it was, even after I bit a piece off for her. I feel like a horse mom failure.

Champagne continues to work on her cow phobia. I actually managed to lead her into the field with the cows; she did panic and bolt at one point, whereon I received a well-earned bruised knee and wrenched shoulder for pushing her too hard, but we got it together. Now she’s still got a bit of an obsession about the spooky end at C, but most cows are OK.


Eagle and L, Ash’s old owner on Ash, and Blizzard and I herded our cows a bit as we came across them on a hack. Blizzard was fantastic about it, except when one of the cows didn’t want to move he nibbled her bum.

I think this is Skye’s first selfie, too. She was not amused. Apparently old battle queens don’t do the selfie thing. She is so well. ❤

Nugget does do it now though, even without a halter and lead. I can pick up her hind feet with a rope and L can even put bug stuff on her in the evenings. Progress!

Arwen’s herd got out into the passageway one morning and I felt like an epic horse whisperer when they all followed me back in. (It was feeding time).

My last ride on Destiny. Content with his training, his owners took him back to their nearby stableyard, where he and his mom both seem to be thriving. It was an incredible journey with this little brat and I thank God for it.

Blizzard is getting pretty ammy-proof. Toodling bareback in a halter? Check.

Almost nine years into our relationship, this horse still makes my heart skip a beat sometimes. ❤

She turned eleven on the first of September. The world is a better place for her being in it – I know my world is.

My comrade, my crazy dragon friend, and the one who’s got my back – I thank God for my Arwen.

More recent updates to follow. Glory to the King.

In Abba’s Arms

Horses have been many things to me: an instrument of salvation, a gift from above, a storm, a heartbreak, a dream, the shattering of dreams, a gut-wrenching fear, a hope for the future, companionship, courage, a calling. But now, “my” horses – mine like siblings; they were always His – are, to me, worship.

My dance partners are how I praise the Lord when words won’t do. And they often don’t. Together, we sing the glory of the God too big for words, so big He’s praised in tiny things: a breath, a smile, a touch. Not only in dressage, but in grooming, in carrot stretches, in liberty.

Sometimes, of course, it’s a hot mess. Sometimes it’s all about percentages and my own inadequacies and fear and failure and shortcomings and temper and frustrations. It melts down and becomes something blackened and ugly. Then I sit in the wreckage, with a spooked and resistant horse and a broken heart, and I wonder how I could ever be forgiven.

Then I cry. And then worship becomes healing. It becomes the place where I can’t hold on and fall, only to find He was holding tight, all along.

It becomes forgiveness.

The world has been so heavy lately. I crack often under the pressure, with ugly consequences. So I have been giving much thought to surrender.

Horses have always been a place where I hear God’s voice speaking. And He speaks to me now.

I hear Him in the softness of Faith’s coat while I’m grooming and in the eagerness of her step while we work through the most basic stuff: trotting in hand, stopping without climbing on top of me, investigating the inside of a stable for the first time.

It’s all just the building blocks of being a horse in a world full of humans, but there’s nothing mundane about the threefold cord where loving God meets worshipping woman meets feeling beast.

I hear Him in the depths of our conversations, when I realise day by day that the horse I picked out of a field in fifteen minutes even though the others had better conformation – the horse I picked on the prompting of the Spirit, in faith – that horse has the most incredible, curious, thinking, eager and willing mind.

I hear Him in the playfulness of Magic’s body language as we play with rein back, turn on the forehand, lunging, little fences all without even a touch, with sounds and gestures. It shouldn’t work but it works for him, and it’s playtime for the both of us at the end of the day when we’ve both been facing our giants and just want to enjoy the beautiful world for once.

I hear Him in the shift of Thunder’s back, the swing of it, the suppleness. I hear Him in the joy that leaps inside me when I feel him melt and move between hand and leg with a newfound softness that can only be born of relaxation, of joy – his, not mine.

His transitions are so much better now. I’ve been more disciplined about not saying what I don’t mean with my leg, and suddenly I can speak in touches and breaths.

I don’t delight so much because it’s brilliant, anymore. I delight because it’s ours and we’re His. It’s a different place. Somewhere almost holy.

I hear Him in the courage of Arwen, in her fire, in the dauntless enthusiasm with which she bursts out and attacks every task she’s given.

I hear Him when our canter-walks stay terrible, when she doesn’t stretch in the circle with break of contact, when she hollows into the transition – yes, I hear Him even then, louder than our mediocrity, louder than the fact that I don’t really know what I’m doing at this level just yet. I hear Him louder and every day we get just a little bit better – at dressage, at each other, at life.

And I hear Him sing in the shine on Skye’s coat and the light in her eyes and the way we still know each other better than anybody else.

I hear Him, and He just keeps saying the same thing over and over with that particular relentless compassion and unquenchable determination and ineffable patience that only He has: “I Am, I Am bigger, and I love you. I Am, I Am bigger, and I love you.”

That’s why, though I fail, though I fall, though it’s too heavy, though I let Him down, though I hurt him, though I break, though I am nothing – that’s why I call Him Abba. Abba is a Hebrew word, and it doesn’t mean Father.

It means Daddy.

So here’s one more thing the horses are to me: they are the place where I realise, again, anew, that I am in Abba’s arms.

Glory to the King.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15

Big Skies

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Glory to the King.

Marching On

After the emotional and spiritual high of last week, this one has left me a little flat. Make no mistake, we had good progress this week, including a lot of good rides and lessons and wonderful preparation for Finals tomorrow (these kids are amazing!), but I think we all felt a little rough around the edges after putting everything into pony camp.

I will give absolutely everything tomorrow, too, because my kids and ponies have been doing exactly that. Vastrap and his kid were so amazing on Tuesday that yesterday I just took them on a hack. They are so more than ready for whatever Finals will throw at them.

And after a bit of an unpromising lesson on Tuesday, Liana’s indomitable kid showed up to work on Thursday and gave it everything she had. Liana is hot and not always easy to keep rhythmic throughout a test but this kid absolutely nailed it. She’s going to ride her heart out at Finals because she always does.

Purple gloves make me happy, and so does Savanna. She is such a sweet, nonviolent, willing soul. She is desperately uneducated though, and it shows, but already after two or three weeks of work she’s starting to understand that there is no need to rush fences or cut corners. We still have a long way to go in terms of developing self-carriage and any form of technique, but obedience is already improving. From next week she’s in full training and competing with me, so that’ll be fun.

Champagne has been out of work for the above reason. Ah pony. Why? Six stitches and a week later and it’s almost healed, but it’s a pity we’ve lost that training time.

Magic is better at teenage girl selfies than I am.

He’s just better at selfies generally, really.

Skye has a nicer winter coat than anyone. She is really contented at the moment. Looking after Lady Erin seems to be all the stimulation she really needs; the old girl is happy to stand in a peaceful field and come in to do the Scripture reading before shows and get stuffed full of cookies. Especially the cookies, if we’re honest. She doesn’t crave people, although that’s not to say we don’t both enjoy grooming (and cookie-feeding).

Magic, on the other hand, is by no means ready for retirement. I had been toying with the idea a little. Riding has been either anxious or boring of late; I don’t want to push him with the flatwork, I can’t cope with the jumping, and he can’t cope with hacks. We lunge but that’s just exercise. We both really need a conversation; we need to spend quality time and not just be together, but talk and interact and learn things.

So, because he really enjoys groundwork, we’re playing with liberty. I know – I rolled my eyes reading the websites, too. (Ignore bad behaviour? So what do you do if it charges/bites/kicks/rears/pushes you around?) But it’s what Magic needs. He never gets stroppy. He never gets domineering. He needs something where there’s no pressure and lots of affirmation and this seems like fun. So here goes nothing, I guess.

I’m just gonna leave this right here because it makes me so happy seeing them regain their shine here.

Pretty Ash has been doing so well with L. Sound for 15 minutes’ trotting for several weeks now, we’ve added in some canter. It’s rather more canter than L is used to but Ash takes care of her. She is such a classy, attractive pony – I kind of wish we’d had her when she was younger and sounder and ready to take on the world.

I bought the dragon a nametag. Try not to laugh.

Speaking of dragons, we have been dressaging. More to come later. I’m using the double on her most of the time now. She does go better and yes, she should be able to do it in a snaffle, but the horse didn’t get a good foundation and right now we’re just muddling along trying to find what works for where we are now. Dressage coach S might come see us next month, then we can ask her opinion.

Nugget is incredibly content living with Magic. She’s in a better condition than ever before and even runs around the field playing with him – something I’ve never seen her do before. Unfortunately, after my week off and then pony camp, we’ve taken a bunch of steps back in handling. I haven’t gotten a halter back on her again. We’re making progress back there every day (I can rub her neck and shoulder now), so we’ll regain the lost ground quickly. I’m trying to make a point not to be upset about it, because there’s just no way I would have coped without the week off. And if I don’t cope there’s no yard and if there’s no yard there’s no safe haven for Nuggets.

On the jumping front, this was our exercise of the week; canter pole, couple of bounces, one stride, vertical. I added V-poles to the vertical later on. It was very challenging, especially for the kids, because they had to really ride the ponies up into their hands and get them to use themselves instead of just point and go. But it was confidence building for the horses and helped sharpen reflexes and round jumps nicely.

I found it confidence building too – so much so that the last vertical ended up at about a metre. My first in years, and Jamaica’s first under me. He just loped right on over and didn’t take it seriously enough to give it much scope, so it’s comforting to know he can do it and with such quietness.

He is such a blessing. If I had unlimited funds I would have bought him long ago. As it is, if I do pass Module 5, it’ll in large part be due to what God is doing for me with this funny-looking little horse.

Arwen has a jumping day each month, and she charged through it as well,

as did Destiny, Savanna (a simplified version), Thunder, and Lancelot. Lancey particularly impressed me because carefulness has been something we’ve long struggled with and he didn’t knock a single pole, except for rubbing the last vertical so that the V-poles fell off. He was kind of dorkward about it but he did the thing and I’m so so proud of the little chap.

I also started playing with an automatic release. My crest release is really good when it’s good, but disappears as soon as I’m nervous. I feel like I have to keep my hands back to keep my weight back in case the horse stops. It isn’t true, but it’s how it feels. The automatic is harder so it makes me concentrate on my lower leg and hip so that I can pull it off, but psychologically it’s significantly easier to follow the mouth slightly rather than toss my hands up the neck. I kinda like the result but I’m not dead sure yet.

And I’m throwing this in here too – G wasn’t able to exercise Pennie much last week, so I got to borrow her for a day and have some fun. Love this pony. She’s epic. Pictured: reason why I must learn a better release.

Eagle is going much better. He can be tricky to train for his novice owners; he’s never naughty, but he is responsive and forward-thinking by nature, so when you’re a novice trotting along and you panic and grab with your legs he’s probably going to go faster. We spent a lot of time installing some very sharp brakes and a relaxed halt, and he’s doing great.

They harvested the maize last week. The world suddenly looks bigger; and there’s not as much to spook at. I borrowed Dusty from the kids for a hack and remembered why I trust this little pony like nobody else.

This is Troy, who is my current favourite schoolie from Winstead. He is large and round and lazy but also jumps anything if you get him to go fast enough, so he’s my type. We were jumping over 80cm in fairly tricky exercises last lesson and he gives me a lot of courage. Thank you Troy (and coach K of course).

This cheeky adorable Faithy thing has been getting ideas above her station and picking fights with herd members, so now she has one kick on each hock. One more kick and I’ll move her out, but I suspect she’s doing something to provoke getting bullied. Bratty 2yo thinks she can rule the roost down there.

We have been having more conversations about the horsebox. She doesn’t walk right in yet, but if you show her you have cookies she’ll go in. She’s still learning about the world and I’m still learning about her, but I love her so much. Also she will do anything for cookies.

This is Meatlug (after the dragon – a greatly inappropriate name) and I think she’s beautiful. Those eyes…


Destiny has his ups and downs. Our personality clash makes for a difficult relationship, but we have been making really good progress. He’s so good on hacks now, jumped the difficult gymnastic, and is learning to move laterally off my leg.

Blizzard is trotting laps in the (amazing, new) ring now. Slanted poles are amazing, by the way – I haven’t had my knees smacked even once. He was scared of me posting at first, but his reaction to being scared is to stop dead, so that’s quite OK for a novice horse. We have some confidence building to do in trot but it won’t be long before we canter.

Lullaby has been a bit flat lately. I’ve tried the usual tricks – decreased workload, time off, a fun jumping session with a big kid – to no avail. She doesn’t seem unsound or in any physical trouble beyond the usual stiffness that we’re controlling with joint supplements, but there’s just a lack of her usual sparkle. I really hope her age and many years in the riding school aren’t catching up to her. I need her – we need her. But I’m her advocate. So we’ll try hacks and different food and so on until my stalwart little colleague is herself again. She has served so well for so long at such a thankless task.
My job is easy by comparison. It’s the least I can do to be as faithful as my good little ponies.

Glory to the King.

all ready for tomorrow

Moving Forward

C. S. Lewis wrote that it doesn’t really matter how many times we fall; it’s the getting up each time that counts. Some days I feel very like those “muddy and tattered children” he wrote about, but I still know my heavenly Daddy is just waiting to wipe the mud and tears away and welcome me Home. Every day is one step closer – sometimes a stumbling, fumbling, floundering step. But a step nonetheless.

So, too, our journey to excellence in horsemanship is heading tangibly in the right direction, marred but not stopped by the odd mistake or bad day.

In anticipation of one day finally moving up to 90cm, I’ve been slowly picking apart my fears and working on them one by one. I’ve found myself almost entirely comfortable at 80cm at home, but absolutely entirely uncomfortable at 90cm. It’s all in my head, of course, but that’s fine. So is all my skill, dreams, and resolution to stick with my God. One’s head is a valid and important place for something to be. Abba is being patient with me and so is the horse; it’s the least I can do to return the favour.

In the past if I wanted to move up I’d set up a course at that height and jump it. It hasn’t worked. Right now I’m taking the idea to pieces and tackling each one individually. The first order of business was dealing with my thing with combinations, starting with this gymnastic line – pole, bounce, one stride, one stride. The ones were very long and the last oxer was about 75-80cm. I had to ride Jamaica forward at this or he’d throw in a nasty chip or a valiant leap to try and help me out. So that helped for my terror of getting the horse forward (which I must do because I can’t expect him to keep saving my bum at 90cm).

Then we jumped a single vertical in my comfort-zone dressage arena at 90cm. Then an oxer, only 60cm high but 100cm wide. So far, I’ve been OK. Not quite comfortable, but definitely not in the fear zone.

The horse is wonderful. I want to poke my eyeballs out with a fork when schooling him on the flat sometimes – but that’s also improving. Over fences he just goes in the same rhythm at every single jump even when I’m messing up and it’s amazing.

Savanna started to be very cheeky with her teenager, so she has been dumped into boot camp with mean Auntie Firn, as naughty ponies are. She is very sweet and levelheaded (especially for a 6yo thoroughbred) but there’s just no real schooling here at all. We spent a whole session just talking about rhythm. Then we spent another session trotting the same 50cm fence. She had two options: run sideways from a mile away, or gallop at the fence. The mare is not spooky but she doesn’t know where to put her feet and the running out has caused her rider to chase her at everything, so now she chases herself.

I explained to her that she really just has to go quietly over and by the end if it, she did. Then she went dramatically lame with an abscess. As thoroughbreds do. 😦

Miss South Africa here has settled in much better and seems quite happy and relaxed in her stable and field these days. Work, regrettably, is another story. This horse’s anxiety levels are through the ceiling and she seems completely uneducated on how to actually deal with it. She is nice to ride in her comfort zone with three balanced, obedient and connected gaits, but we have just been walking and walking and walking. Trying to show her where to find the stillness in the storm. I should know. Her ground manners are getting better (it’s amazing what a well-placed elbow can achieve) and we’ve come to an agreement: I don’t push her into the fear zone, she doesn’t rear up and strike at my face.

Liana has also developed a cheeky run-out at oxers. Only at home, of course – this pony doesn’t know how to stop at shows. I’ve passed Midas on to a new little rider so I’m giving Liana to Vastrap’s kid to school a bit. Her little girl is doing better and better, and always manages to get her over on the second or third go despite being very little.

Lulu has been having a bit of a break after working very hard for the past two SANESA qualifiers. Much pampering has helped children back into her good books.

Magic is so well and happy. He was a bit lost without Exavior for a while, but I moved Nugget in with him and he is now back to full happiness again. He was wonderful to ride last week and much better to lunge – we can now canter on the lunge without having any wild moments.

Faith’s front end is finally catching up to her back end. She’s become so trusting of people. Definitely has an opinion and can be spooky, hot and quite pushy – but we’re working on that. This unicorn has an inner dragon. Besides, so far my spooky dressage horses have done all right.

Destiny’s focus has been on hacking. He’s nice in company and manageable on the trail alone, but nappy heading out. A well-placed dressage whip has sorted some of that out, however.

Arwen and I headed into the woods for the first time in – well, long. A year or more. I used to ride in these woods all the time before old Skye retired, but the string of young and/or spooky horses that have followed have kinda ruled that one out for me. But Sunè’s kid and I finally did it again and it was really rather amazing. You’re in another world in the woods. And even with Ice bounding in the bushes, Arwen never turned a hair.

As for Sunè and her kid, what more can I say? They’re a match made in heaven. She’s developed a cheeky little run-out, but nothing a session with me won’t fix.

Champagne makes for amazing photos.

I love how the trees dapple her twice in this one. Also she is now OK with chickens.

Last week ended refreshingly slowly, with dressage to look forward to, and lots of these special little moments scattered throughout. Chocolate froyo and my loony sister – as well as finally making my first foray into Francine Rivers when I found Redeeming Love on special for peanuts – are a good combination.


So are cats in boxes,


and rare moments of creative energy,


and dogs on laps,

and perfect plaits,

and dressage-sculpted dragon butts all in blue.

Blessed beyond all expectation. Glory to the King.