I’ve wanted this for so long, and it is so worth waiting for. Today, I got to ride on a flat level surface that wasn’t pounding my poor horses’ joints into oblivion. There were no holes. There was no slipping. There weren’t any other horses in the way! Just 20x60m of amazing. Thanks Dad, Mutterer – and Lord!
I was so excited I didn’t even want to use the lunging ring, so I lunged Xave in the dressage arena instead. He was completely wild but happily went around in circles (at light speed). New arena is apparently spooky if you are a baby dumb-blood (I didn’t even come up with that – it’s what the dentists calls them, usually just after Xave tries to jump on his head). Apart from one very rude kick at me as I sent him off, he was actually fairly polite about being worried. Also, he is freakishly gorgeous, did you notice?
I warmed Arwie up in it before jumping and she didn’t spook at all, although she was excited and pulling. Possibly also a by-product of getting last week off. She proceeded to jump a full 85cm course with flair, which felt amazing. We’re getting somewhere!
Lancelot also schooled in it and was impressively calm, and Midas was just as good and practiced both his tests for Saturday really well. It’s only Prelim 1 and 2 but it was wonderful to be able to school the movements exactly as they’ll be in the show arena. He was brilliant. He’ll do really well if he shuts up and concentrates.
Much of the day was taken up in last-minute practices for the kiddies who are showing heifers on Wednesday. In case anyone out there didn’t know, cows are amazingly beautiful. Particularly Jerseys.
Sunè schooled beautifully in the new arena too. She’s still annoyingly one-sided, which irks me mostly because I’m not used to it. It’s one of the first things I try to fix on mine. Bombproof as they come, though. I look forward to her working riding class this weekend.
I also turned Magic out in the new arena in an attempt to let him get used to it without any chance of launching me into the stratosphere. This was a terrible idea. He bolted up and down screaming until I came over and petted him, and then he walked around on a lead as quietly as can be, not spooking at anything. I guess we’ll see how tomorrow goes.
It was a joy to teach in the dressage; the ponies appreciated the easier footing, the riders appreciated the space, and I appreciated being close to the house (and water/food/equipment/loo). My voice, though, is totally cooked. It was fit for shouting across a 15x35m oval, not for this.
After the chaos, just before sunset when the light was turning to molten gold and peace filled every breath, I went out to lunge Eagle (who was great) and breathe in the beauty. The reality. The truth of how much we all are loved.
I deserve death. Instead, I get blessings. Life. The ultimate sacrifice from the One I betrayed.
I pray that every time I step onto that big sand rectangle, it reminds me of that.
This week has been a little wild. I’ll recap in pictures, because forming a coherent post is a little much to ask right now. (Writers all say that writing something badly is better than writing nothing at all, right?)
We are currently without a head groom; it’s junior groom T and I for it, with Mom helping us out with the cow guys, which has saved our bacon.
I love the show horses, but it was sooooo good to be home and leaning against Mr. Failed Showjumper again. This horse. ❤ Thanks Lord.
Eagle came into work for the first time. He is as expected; sensitive, but willing. A joy if you’re tactful; a danger if you’re not. He’s cottoned on to the basic voice commands but still kind of anxious about staying in walk.
Magic began his return to work with a lunging session, which was a good thing because he spent it leaping about spooking at stuff that’s been there for ever. Seriously, bro?
Trooper also started work this week and is also as expected – dead lazy. The thing about horses that are unresponsive to spooky things is that they’re generally unresponsive to aids, too. I’m going to tweak his diet and see if I can fizz him up a bit. Otherwise he is adorable and follows the kids around everywhere.
Magic developed an allergic reaction to not getting enough attention last week. I gave him cortisone which did not help at all. It’s bugging me more than it’s bugging him, and is gradually going away, so I’m not panicking. Yet.
Exavior has been a total sweetie to work with and lunge. I finally enjoy hanging out with the dude again, mostly because I don’t have to deal with his bad side. The poor Mutterer does, however, and on Tuesday the dude reared so high that even the Mutterer looked momentarily concerned.
On the plus side, those sabino splashies on his tummy are still too cute for words.
Sunè did lots of hacking, even past the woods, which are usually quite scary. She’s been a superstar. Coolest little horse, this. She’s going to be real dependable.
Faith is now super easy to lead, tie up, and groom, including picking out the feet. She still has her fairylike, gossamer prettiness, but I do wish some of the expensive food I shove into her would start to go sideways instead of just up and along.
The dressage arena is rideable at last!! I’m so, so happy. Thanks Lord! It is an inexpressible pleasure to have that beautiful, flat surface free of obstacles and distractions to school on. There’s even a fence. No more baby horses running to Timbuktu when spooked! I spent yesterday morning riding the schoolies in it, so hopefully today I can teach most of my lessons up here too. Its proximity to the tack room and loo is also a definite advantage.
For the first time in her life, the champ herself is being stabled long-term. I’m trying to keep the coat short for Nationals (Arwen + body clip = disaster – she can’t have her legs done without sedation, and last time we gave her enough to geld a Clydesdale colt and she still went across the stable on her hindlegs with the Murderer hanging from her head). I also think, given how many overnight shows she has to do lately, that having a routine of sleeping in at night will make her happier at shows. Plus then I can limit her hay intake a little without separating her from her buddies. Maybe then we can finally shake some of the chubbles… or she’ll just eat some dirt and get even chubbier.
It’s good to be back. Onwards and upwards. Glory to the King.
This week was looking hectic, but doable. Sure, we were minus head groom T for the week, but we had our junior groom. Sure, we had seven horses to prepare for SANESA, but we at least had two boxes to take them in.
And then both junior groom and extra box promptly broke down.
The week immediately began to look completely un-doable, so, utterly overwhelmed, I laid it down to God. He promptly fixed our groom situation (enter yard rat K and her mom), and as a bonus made our horses go really well today. Even Sunè and Liana, who were struggling somewhat prior to this.
Amidst all this, I sat on Destiny. He was super. I am relieved. His thrilled owner diligently documented the occasion, which was very cool. I seldom have media of training horses being started so it was great to see.
Poor Arwen has been a little neglected, but we did jump a course of 80-85cm without dying, so that was awesome. She is a bit chicken of getting a bad distance at that height and throws in a stop rather than fluffing the jump (like a safe little xc pony) but was convinced otherwise.
Magic has been happily fooling around. We free jump most weeks now, because even if I don’t really want to ride him over anything bigger than 50cm right now, I still like looking at that fabulous jump of his.
As mentioned, Sunè hadn’t been going too great. I felt pressurised by the upcoming show and didn’t take as much time on the simple trot changes as I should have, whereupon she got defensive, sticky and argumentative. She’s utterly nonviolent, but can be stubborn. We worked through it, though, and I’m looking forward to a first show on this fun little mare.
Jamaica is jumping full courses at 60cm now. He rides like a dull schoolie sometimes – really quiet over fences, but quite uneducated about where to jump and lazy with his legs. He willingly took every fence but most of the distances were quite poor and rhythm nonexistent. I foresee much schooling at 70cm before we move up.
Lancelot and his kid (the Z-kid) have been lessoning again between schooling sessions and doing great. He’s got such a happy workaday attitude to jumping now. He’s obviously still green, but has a natural eye and jumps well when left to do his thing. He does tend to take poles with his hindlegs though.
The pintos have been super. Zara is reminding me a lot of her dam, Amidala. She’s a higher quality copy, but her go-to naughty thing is to become completely unresponsive. She’s not violent, but there is currently much pulling and flapping. At least this now takes place in the big arena.
Tara is fantastic. I knew her dam, too, a cute old TB mare named Pumpkin who was a great schoolie. She’s dependable, trainable and comfortable and we’ve got three reliable gaits going in the big arena.
Midas has been making my day reliably. He jumped his first full course at 40cm with a very businesslike air, and also had his first ride with a kid on board. The kid rides great, he went great, I am happy.
I hacked Starlight for her mom. Starlight doesn’t like me, but we’ve come to a kind of begrudging truce.
I bought another pony to bring on. Call me crazy if you like. He’s ultra cute and irresistible and I’m way overexcited. He hasn’t come yet, but I’ve met him and you could probably set up a jumping castle beside him and he’d just sigh.
The main reason for that is that the poor chap has just sort of whinnied at me as I flew past this week. It’s hard being the manager’s pet – he always seems to come second when the mango strikes the fan. I’ve groomed him, lunged him once, kissed his nose as I went past and sat on him for like 10 minutes on Tuesday.
No longer able to bear it, tonight after all the lessons were done and silence descended on the yard, I pulled him out of his field at last and we had some Magic time.
Our relationship has found its way to a new place. It’s different, and sometimes a little weird, but it’s good. Oh, it’s very, very good.
There’s no pressure. I haven’t ridden without pressure since Skye retired years ago, and I barely remember what it’s like. Letting go of that seriousness, that deadly focus, that constant vigilance for the slightest slip in training or position has been – hard. Like unclenching a death grip. But so liberating. And especially so for my precious Magic.
He’s always loved work, but he’s never been this excited to get to work. He lights up these days. His good days are exuberantly happy. His bad days are so much less bad now that we both know that if he’s not coping today, then it’s just fine. We do what he can do. We don’t ask for more than he has. We play, we enjoy, we seek to rediscover the comfort zone I’d smothered in pressure.
And as God holds Magic up like a mirror to my soul, I learn to do something I’m truly no good at.
Without backsliding, without sinning, to give myself a break. And to see me the way He does.
Wreathed in timeless love.
So as we merrily bound through a gymnastic line and get all the strides wrong, or jump the same 40cm cross one million times, or gallop around above the bit, or hack bareback on a loose rein, or just hand graze – as nothing happens whatsoever in our training, something incredible happens in our souls. It’s that thing that God used to call me to the yard in the first place. That thing He does in the place where the equine heart meets the human soul.
That thing that happens when our jagged, ugly, broken pieces fit into one another, crack for crack, and God makes something beautiful from our very brokenness. That thing, that indescribable thing that only He can do…
I don’t know its name. But the closest thing I can find is “healing”.
Today was spa day for six of the Horde. I’m very into having chiro done at least once a year where I can; it’s not always financially practical for broodmares and sale ponies, but the competing horses, schoolies or anything with a problem needs doing.
Today’s lineup started with Starlight. She has been girthy since she arrived in December and while I found back pain and put it down to that, the back pain is related to old pectoral muscle tears, not anything sinister like KS or something. Stardust has exactly the same thing so we’re good at managing it and it won’t get in her way. Her hip was also badly locked, something I’d noticed since she is always a little short on that leg. Hopefully we’ll see considerable improvement.
Vastrap was generally tight especially through his intercostal muscles, which I wasn’t in the least surprised by. This unfortunately is going to be strongly related to how hot and tense he is to ride, so it’s a slow fix. But we’ve already made progress.
Magic has some excellent news. He wasn’t out anywhere, just rather tight in his left hind hip, and best of all his bad wither is not worse – in fact, it’s better. The chiro’s exact words were “Don’t change anything because it’s working.” I’m so relieved that my magical beast is still OK. With his being a bit wacky lately I was half expecting that his back was hurting him again. The chiro also commented on how incredible our bond is, which made me feel so much better about our recent bad days.
Exavior was rather, um, interesting. The chiro went to touch his upper neck, which he’s always been touchy about, so he reared and tried to bite us. After a discussion about not biting nice ladies, he cut it out and started to actually enjoy having his bones all sorted out. His back was totally perfect, but his poll was very sore. The fall where he cut his leg open years ago – that catalysed the drama that led to his becoming mine – also damaged his nuchal ligament and it was extremely tight and sensitive. This explains why he’s always so uncomfortable about his head and also some of the rearing (although that can also be explained by his being a brat). It can be managed, thank God. I have to do a little stretch thingy with him to help, and I’ll look into getting him a poll relief bridle. He should be far more comfortable now.
Can we all just stop for a minute, though, and appreciate just how big God’s plan is for this horse? Most horses that fall and hit their polls there die on impact. Not Xave, though. He’s a survivor and God’s got something big in store for him. ❤
Renè had a bunch of lumbar vertebrae out and her hip and shoulder were really locked. I discussed some stiffness issues she had had early on in her training with the chiro, who thinks it’s possibly due to the type of heavy slow twitch muscle she has. Almost like a really mild variant of PSSM. Our stretches and gradual conditioning have practically eliminated it, though, and there’s no major problem so it’s all good.
Last up was little Lullaby, who hasn’t had any problems but is a lifelong school pony so there must be pain somewhere. Sure enough she had both thoracic and lumbar vertebrae out, so that should make her far more comfy. Lumbar vertebrae are typical school pony problems so we’ll just keep having her done regularly to keep those suckers in place.
In other news, Midas, Sunè, Arwen and Tara are all pretty much ready for Pre-HOY. Exavior is almost ready, I just want a practice run at plaiting him since he’s going to have to learn to deal with me standing on a box and pulling on his hair, which won’t be easy for him.
Faithy moved out to a small group field with Milady and Lady Erin. She’s stayed good to catch and super gorgeous.
My writing is as flat as my battery today, but here it is. Glory to the King.
I cannot believe how much effort Pre-HOY is being. At this rate HOY itself is going to be more or less impossible, but as we all know, our God is good at impossible.
So I put my nose down and do what I can, and there might be lots to do but it’s very exciting.
First, I must recap on the weekend, when my buddy Erin came over to hang out and teach us how to plait.
Which of course had to be followed by the most awesome hack ever with Erin on Lullaby, Rain on Stardust and myself taking my usual perch on trusty Arwen. She had one wicked buck of pure excitement, but apart from that, she was stellar. She even leapt straight into the water while the two schoolies politely declined to go anywhere near it.
I am deeply grateful to Rain and Erin’s patience because I insisted on plodding basically the whole way. I’m OK hacking alone, but the kid-with-the-broken-arm’s fall has left me with a thing about leading hacks. I think I said “Please don’t fall off” approximately 80 times, and they very kindly obeyed.
Back to today, I just lunged and rode Exavior because there’s basically nothing to work on with his in-hand. His riding is a different matter. On Friday I lunged him good and decided to just ride him cool. Bareback. With one lead clipped to the halter. Tired and confused, he reared, and when he hit the ground I bailed. Sweaty horses are slippery to sit on bareback, y’all. I get off before I fall off.
I did get back on and make him go, but he was remembering it today with his classic mix of rude and insecure. He was awesome in walk and then nappy as soon as I asked for trot. To his credit he never actually got up on his hind legs, and with tact and my magic pink wand (AKA dressage whip) we did get some trot in the end.
Arwen schooled working riding, which is our great hope for HOY. She had one rider-error stop at a fence that was too big to approach at a showing canter (and admittedly too big to be in a working riding course) but apart from that she just handled it. That’s my Narwie.
Lancey schooled over slightly bigger fences and took it in his stride. Not literally. There was much clonking of poles. Tara was good to lunge and good to ride but a bit mediocre for in-hand, although we did ride our first lap around the big arena with exactly zero drama despite my scary working riding obstacles.
Midas and Sunè both gave me hope by being just incredible today, behaving like real grownup horsies down to balanced cantering and good simple changes. Maybe I won’t make a complete fool of us at HOY after all.
To my great relief, Magic was also back in his happy place and plopped through his flatwork with the cheerful air I love so much.
And Faithy progressed to going walkies outside of her field, since we no longer need the bum rope for forward motion. I’m loving this stage of daily figuring out more about her. She’s quite aloof, but really enjoys attention and grooming. She is sensitive and fairly easily spooked but also good at dealing with fear, and already looking to me for help. And curious. Really curious.
This little kid made my day by being so so brave. He has been terribly nervous since he started riding, but today he wanted to be lunged instead of led for the first time! Times like these I thank God for my own bad nerves – it means I can get in the hole with them and help them out. Lulu, of course, did most of the work. Our schoolies are worth their weight in solid gold.
Highveld weather: two days ago we had cold mist and an icy wind straight from Antarctica, and today the heat came. The sun was merciless, so hot and bright it felt like the light was pressing down on us physically. I guess sometimes the real Light can feel that way too, but the fact remains that both are life-giving.
Philosophying aside, for us it means sunburn – horses and people both. Of course, the horses with pink noses religiously get cream on so they don’t burn, but us humans are perpetually red, peeling, or gorgeously tanned. (The bits that you can see. The bits you can’t see are positively luminescent).
It also meant that the school ponies were irritable and moody after their first lesson, but on the upside the training horses were extremely relaxed and didn’t have the energy for melodrama.
Exavior was the hero of the day. I didn’t lunge him at all, just threw his tack on and climbed aboard. He was much less against my inside hand today in trot and so good to halt that I leaned down, opened the ring gate and rode him up into the big arena. He was positively angelic. My adrenalin was sky high and I had to pull myself out of that heels-up hunched-over fetal position a few times, and I know my breathing was very sticky, but he just dealt with it and plugged along. He wasn’t spooky at all, just a bit distracted by the others and obviously very wiggly. He’s been such a trooper about my nerves so far, I really owe him one.
After this high pressure ride, we went on the most stunning hack up the koppie (rocky hill). The views are incredible and Arwen was so relaxed and happy.
Jamaica was next. He had his first jumping session under me yesterday. He hasn’t jumped since he broke his scapula a year ago, and judging by his flatwork I was extremely dubious, so when he overjumped the first little fence I promptly went and got a neck strap and my big girl panties. I do not need my arm broken too, thank you very much. But after the first few giant leaps he settled down beautifully and began to enjoy himself and plop along happily. Today was flatwork, and we kept it quite low-key, working on trying to get a connection in the canter circles.
Destiny had been so good last week, giving me two whole long sessions without any napping, that I optimistically stuck his bridle on and took a lunge roller down to the ring with me. He did nap once, at which I was so indignant that I gave him one hiding and he promptly cut it out, so I put the roller on too and he didn’t turn a hair.
Zara’s session was a little odd; she was hyper to lunge and I was about to get on when there was a loud twang and Lady Erin leapt up from the wrong side of the fence, having fallen asleep underneath it and gotten up in a panic. Zara was abandoned in the ring while T and I wrestled the baby monster back into her field. We had just succeeded in this endeavour when there was another loud twang and Zara crashed underneath the ring gate, galloping off merrily. Luckily she was quite OK to catch and I patched up the ring and got on her for three gaits without incident. We finished with some more work in the big arena. She wiggled quite annoyingly, but wasn’t at all spooky or nervous.
I only had like ten minutes for poor Faithy (welcome to being one of mine, Faithy) but they were ten very good minutes. She still only suffers herself to be caught for food, but once caught she’s very relaxed about grooming. I picked out her forefeet for the first time today. We also walked twice around her field without a bum rope.
Magic finished off my riding for the day, not really on the best note. He kept it together but he wasn’t relaxed like yesterday. He felt hot and a little bit reactive, so we stuck to flatwork until he settled and then I put him to bed.
Also, shout out to Starlight’s mom! Starlight was a sob story on Facebook seeking a new home for a teensy amount of cash. I said no, but Starlight’s mom bought her anyway and that little horse is a machine! God obviously said yes!
Electric fences are the best, when they work. Unfortunately, they’re also notoriously cantankerous. While our perimeter fence is fairly impenetrable, our inside fences don’t always hold up to the steady abuse they’re subjected to by creatures of all sizes, and Field A’s gate decided to fail me this morning. Thankfully, the only casualties were the jumping exercise I’d painstakingly set out the day before and our mounting block.
This was not my problem however as I merrily charged off to Springs for my weekly ride-big-horses session, leaving the poor grooms to sort out the epic mess. On arrival I was vastly relieved to be given a cute little grey pony to ride and felt like I actually achieved something on him, which made me feel better about flopping around on coach K’s amazing schoolmasters. Thereafter I got to ride a beautiful white Lipizzaner gelding. He promptly bucked, and I promptly hit him, but Lipizzaners stay Lipizzaners.
To my great delight I was also allowed back on Kardinal AKA Giant Fancy International Pony. I don’t know what it is about him, but despite his being like as big as a mountain and rather on the spooky side, he inspires endless confidence; he doesn’t worry me one bit despite having spent a total of about forty-five minutes together. We played dressage and I had to roll K’s stirrup leathers so they’d fit (the apex of humiliation).
My jumping lesson didn’t go so great today. I was on a different horse, who really wasn’t bad at all, but he had a teeny look at something outside the arena and I immediately melted down. I forgot every trick I’ve taught myself to get my guts back instantly and became a trembling little heap again. This did not sit well with the poor horse, understandably, but he did his best to bail his frozen saddle monkey out. I don’t even really know what went wrong. Kardinal spooked far bigger and I was fine. Coach K is worth her weight in gold though, she seems to magically know what I can take on the day and gets a read on me really fast which is invaluable. I was kind of disappointed with myself, but on the way home when I got to talking to God about it, I was filled with the overwhelming realisation that He’s not mad. His strength, after all, is made perfect in my weakness. I’m just gonna keep fighting until the sun comes up.
See, this is why I don’t get mad at Magic. How can I? I’m just like him.
Speaking of Mr. Quirkypants, when I got home I hopped on him and he was back to his normal adorable happy self. He did have a good long look at Tara when she decided to spook wildly through the arena, but he didn’t leave at all. We even trotted a few little fences and he could barely be bothered to pick up his feet. At least his meltdowns definitely wear off really fast now.
Sunè was in heat which made recent gelding Midas lose his mind, but I explained my opinion on that kind of behaviour (forcefully, with a jumping crop) and he decided she wasn’t that attractive after all. He went on to have a forward and bold, if a little tense and rushy, jumping session. We popped over a bunch of little crosses including his first combination and finished with a slightly bigger spooky oxer, about 50cm. Little chap was fantastic.
Sunè herself was blissfully unaware of the chaos she’d been causing. She has quite enormous wolf teeth, which I will have removed, but they made her very fussy so I tried my favourite starting bit on her in the meantime. It’s huge and fat and full cheek and it was a huge success. She went much better today. In sharp contrast to my usual task of reinforcing the aids, I’m almost having to desensitise her a little to contact and leg. She gets reactive instead of responsive and instead of thinking about inside leg to outside rein she just gets stroppy because I won’t let her do what she thinks she should be doing. Totally nonviolent, though, and doesn’t know what a spook even is. We finished with some better canter. She is still unbalanced but it’s gone from feral pony gallop to unbalanced baby canter, so we’re getting there.
After a brief round of lessons (srsly lessons please start picking up!) it was off to Heidelberg for a first aid exam. I’m trying to volunteer with some local (awesome) medics to help at events, thus gleaning more experience for when I have to scrape someone off the floor again, and maybe lending a hand somewhere it might be needed. Assuming I pass, obviously. But God’s will be done.
Glory to the King.
Going out at 5:00am to get horses ready for loading really isn’t so bad when God turns the whole sky into yet another masterpiece. ❤
Of course, we had a full horsebox for this show; that’s been our MO lately. Today it was a box full of geldings, about which I had my reservations. Having a sturdy old mare around does tend to make everything a little more low-key. To add to the difficulty, we didn’t even have dear gentle Vastrap. We had Zorro (whose behaviour can be hit-and-miss), Lancelot (second show ever), Thunder (never ridden in a box before), and Magic (need I say more?).
My fears, however, were unfounded. Zorro boxed the worst, and that just means I had to get to his shoulder and give him a whack with the end of the lead before he jumped in with alacrity. The others all marched straight in and Magic immediately started to pull at his haynet, always a good sign. In fact his mood looked excellent; despite our rocky week, I was feeling confident.
Everyone travelled great and got out with their brains fully on, even Thunder, although he was quite wide-eyed. We were of course late (always) so I abandoned the Mutterer to babysit Zorro and Magic while we smacked tack onto (very, very grubby) Lancey and Thunder and head groom T and I headed down to the arena.
Lancelot proceeded to be brilliant for the whole show. He hacked along to the arena without drama, had one spooky first lap of the warmup, and then settled right down. We obviously had to stop and sniff the first cross before we could very carefully step over, but then he started to jump in a beautiful relaxed rhythm. At the gate, he waited on the buckle, occasionally stopping to graze.
Going in for the 40cm he had a big look at everything as we headed down to the start and then wiggled up to the first fence and stopped to gawk at it. I let him sniff and then applied whip and leg and he sort of semi-launched over and wiggled off to the second fence. This one was much better, and by the third one he’d figured out his job and went on to doddle happily over all of them. He didn’t even overjump. He cantered off from most of them but I held him down to trot for the approaches, except the combination, where he awkwardly added a stride and bailed us out.
Going in for the 50cm, he was much more workmanlike having been allowed to have a look. We approached the first fence in trot and he had a little wiggle but then took me right over and cantered off. I stayed light and just pointed him at the fences and encouraged him, letting him figure out rhythm and distances by himself. Of course he made a little mistake at one fence and forgot how many legs he had and took it down, but the rest was excellent. Forward and relaxed. I am very much chuffed with him.
Thunder and T started out both looking very wide-eyed; Thunny was shouting and practically piaffing with nervousness and T could feel she was sitting on a ticking time bomb. At which point I bellowed at her to ride him forward and she looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Nerve-wracking as it must have been, she chased him forward and found he was still rideable as long as she gave him something to do. He settled as the day went on and ended up looking relaxed and professional, toddling over the 60cm like an old hand without so much as an overjump. They had a pair of stops in the 40cm true to baby horse form, but the 60 was flawless except for getting a little lost and having to make a squiggle to get to the right fence which did get them four penalties. T rode him great, and I was so proud to see the giant baby in the show ring at last. (Show photos to follow, not that the budget really allows for any).
Magic was in a fabulous mood tand after my excellent rounds on Lancey, so was I; I came over to him certain that this was going to be a doddle, seeing how I’d only entered 50 and 60. I pulled up his girth, got a leg-up and plopped happily down the long side of the warmup. He was super, swinging along on a loose rein and looking around merrily, and then a big horse passed him at high speed. I felt his back muscles lock and started to talk and breathe him down but then a pony almost sideswiped him and he looked up and saw that the fairly small warmup was in total chaos. Everyone was obeying the rules but it was crowded and everyone seemed to be cantering. His neck went rock hard in front of me and I heard him take one big breath that seemed to get stuck in his throat with a little hiccup, and then he just left. He didn’t get mean, of course. But he couldn’t cope, either. It was a full-blown panic attack/Magic meltdown and even after I got off and led him around he was still blank-eyed and leaping wildly.
I think I could have talked him down given enough time and going into the empty arena nearby. But I looked over at T and Thunder and saw that Zorro and Z-kid were about to come in and I didn’t have time. Rather than try and hurry him, or talk him down while I was distracted, or focus on him and forget the students, I made the call to untack him and call it a day. As soon as the tack was off he gave a big sigh and came back as suddenly as he’d left. Food for thought… is it really the riding at shows that’s putting this much pressure on him? Or maybe just the overflowing warmup? I know this time it wasn’t me. Either way, the dude was quite happy to stand by the box eating hay and his stomach continued to be excellent, so all is good.
That left Zorro and Z-kid, whose saddle held up this time resulting in yet another win in the 70cm. These two are going to smoke them at SANESA this year. Zorro was jumping out of his skin but I think I slipped up and had them warming up much too early, not considering that he’s just had a long holiday over Christmastime. As he was warming up for his second class I could see he’d run out of puff, so the second class didn’t go quite so well. He wasn’t bad but he had an unlucky pole and then fluffed a turn heading towards the gate, necessitating a four-penalty circle to get back to the fence. Poor chap was so flat coming out I couldn’t be mad. He’ll do better by SANESA Q1, and I’ll be more careful not to warm them up for too long.
We’re all pretty much geared for SANESA Q1, my only remaining worries being two outside horses that haven’t been in a box since September, but their kid has been working really hard and I think they’ll be just fine.
As for Magic, he didn’t deal that day. And that’s OK. I don’t always deal either, and we all know he can do no wrong in my eyes anyway, so we’ll just keep taking it one grateful day at a time.
We have our first show of the year on Sunday; a training show over tiny fences at a venue I’ve only ridden at more times than I have teeth. I’m on Magic, who has done 60 and 70cm ad nauseam, and Lancelot, who is super at shows.
And I’m absolutely dead nervous.
No, the show nerves do not go away. I’ve only been competing for about four years now, but I’ve ridden multiple shows on multiple horses every month and logged a lot of miles. I’ve brought a bunch of babies to their first show and I’m so well versed in boxing horses in the dark that it’s not even drama anymore. I’ve ridden nationals and finals and in the same arena as some of the greats – I should be used to this by now.
But here I am, facing 60 and 70cm training courses on horses I know at a training show, terrified.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think my horses were also subscribed to the Facebook event because the closer we come to the day, the worse they go. Especially Magic. Magic was a pogo stick on Thursday; I couldn’t hold him, I couldn’t turn him, I couldn’t get him to jump in a straight line and after every fence he leapt up and down, striking out with his forelegs in a kind of reverse buck.
Always before a show, Magic? Why?
I was a little mad but I patted his neck after dismounting and tried to figure out what was bothering him this time. Food? Teeth? Back? Feet? No.
As usual, it was far simpler than that.
It was me, of course.
So today I climbed aboard and we flopped around like we do any other day. I put on worship music and thought about the latest episode of Chicago Med while I warmed him up, letting my mind wander so that my hands, seat and heart could do the thinking. We trotted a few small fences. Then we cantered them. There was a storm brewing and the wind teased at us, making the horses in the fields skittish and silly, but Magic put down his head and enjoyed his job.
I did the same on Lancelot. I put all the fences and my ego down two holes and trotted a little course. He’d been napping and overjumping. We had the usual little argument or two, but he jumped every fence out of a steady soft rhythm.
So here’s my new resolve: I’m gonna chill out about training shows. I’m going to quit seeing them as shows and start seeing them for what they are – schooling sessions. I’m going to turn myself deaf to the imaginary judgment from the sidelines with which I torment myself, and the pressure of riding a client horse, and the pressure of being coach. I’m going to quit taking myself so seriously, cut a little slack and start riding the horse, for my God.
I’ll wear my work breeches and a slightly faded shirt. I won’t clean my tack. I’ll sleep a little later than I probably should and when clients or students or chauffeur begin to stress, I’ll breathe deep and slow and calm us all down. That’s my job as trainer, after all.
As for Magic? Maybe we’ll do the 60 and the 70. Or maybe we’ll do the 50 and the 60. Maybe we’ll just hack in the warm-up arena because it really doesn’t matter.
He’s not going to win me ribbons. He’s far too busy being an instrument in the hand of God, teaching me the most incredible things about horses and people and life and God.