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.

A Taste of Summer

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

favourite tree

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

peach blossoms in the township

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You, Abba. Glory to the King.

Changing Seasons

Winter’s about here.

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

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


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

so majestic

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

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

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

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

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

Olive back with her tiny buddy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glory to the King.

workaholic pony is tired now

Midgets and Giants

So y’all (okay, Emma) asked for more pictures of my beautiful Africa, specifically the 228ha that I call earthly home. I need no further excuse to fill my posts with pretty nature spam.

I love this place so much. I don’t remember a place before it; in a climate that can go from waving green fields bathed in golden sunlight to the savage majesty of a breaking thunderstorm in minutes, I know the swing of its moods almost subconsciously. Old Skye and I explored every hollow and rock; its beauty has ripened with age, grown up as I did, an unfading splendour that never disappoints. It was here that I first felt the inexplicable, mighty, dynamic, overwhelming presence that in my early writings I called “the magic” and that I finally found a name for years later: God.

This very earth runs in my blood. And like blood, I’ll leave it behind, but for now in my heart it’s the most amazing place in the whole world.

This morning was nippy as we headed out to feed, with a kind of shy, patchy mist as the sun came up.

On a far less poetic note, Lady Erin has entered the bug-ugly but button-cute stage. She still has nice legs and an impression of athletic quality, but it’s like someone took a baby warmblood and dressed it up as a donkey. A mangy donkey. The colour is very odd and don’t ask me about those floofy ears.

hello person hand, I eat you now

Faithy has happily adapted to the more domestic life and is milking it for all it’s worth. She’s perfectly happy to come over and let me do whatever with her, but only if I have a treat. And it has to be the right treat. She’s meant to be on a balancer to help her grow but she prefers the lucerne pellets, and will only deign to eat the balancer if I beg.

She has me all figured out and she knows it. It’s so adorable.

Also, Olive is doing great! She’s still not safe to ride because her neuro thing hasn’t quite recovered yet, in that the feet do not always go where they are meant to go, but she’s not complaining.

 

T was kind enough to get some pictures of Exavior’s session today. He’s been such a good chap lately. I tried to get some more canter on Thursday, but he again only managed one floundering stride. He seems very willing to try and didn’t resist at all; I think balance is a problem and the 15m ring that works so well for the ponies is not ideal for a big giant warmblood.

I don’t even look small on him right now but just you wait until he’s six or seven and as big as a bus

So we’ve made cantering on the lunge a priority. He just needs to build some muscles so he can hold his giant coathanger self up properly. He usually only works for 15-20 minutes at a time, but it’s amazing what you can achieve in 15 minutes if you do it often enough. Far better I think than doing an hour and frazzling a baby brain and body.

I like when the whoa button works

He feels so much less huge and impressive than I expected of him that I thought he was going like a real school pony, but on the pictures he actually looks pretty good. Even in the halter he has the obedience thing pretty down.
I like this picture a lot. I know he looks like a giraffe, but he’s supposed to. We haven’t even approached the whole connection conversation yet. I want him flowing freely forward and straight from behind at the touch of a button first. And here he’s actually doing well; he’s going forward by himself without my hands or legs even touching him, he’s tracking up, he’s even in a level balance. Not doing so bad after all.

Ignore me, I do weird things aboard babies, it’s kept me alive so far.

Then I rode a bunch of the others who were all very solid. Arwen jumped fine. Midas, Jamaica and Sunè schooled well. I petted Nugget’s neck and Faith exhibited some very athletic drama queen spooks upon being introduced to the bum rope when we talked about halter training. 

To finish the post, I must brag about this one amazing kid in the riding school. She’s five and she rides better than I did when I was ten or eleven. Seriously. Look at those adorable little independent hands. She takes exactly zero nonsense from Lullaby and I spend much of our lessons trying to think of a reason not to let her canter yet (apart from the humiliating one, which is that my nerves will not survive). This, kids, is what happens when you show up to all your lessons and try really hard.

I want like ten of them

Glory to the King.

Taking Up the Cross

​ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. – Matthew 16:24

The past two months was really a journey in following this verse for me. Our minister preached about this concept somewhere in mid October, and I prayed with all my heart that Jesus would give me the strength to do exactly this. That I would do it, come Hell or high water… and that’s pretty much what happened.


So lots of bad stuff happened:

  • Olive came down with a neurological virus, possibly herpes. She was very very sick and had to be quarantined and intensively nursed.
  • Milady then got strangles, followed by Exavior, Titan, and Destiny.
  • Because we now had TWO outbreaks at the yard, we had to shut the whole thing down for two weeks. Yep, no lessons for two weeks. That was a financial kick in the guts.
  • A friend kind of turned on me. Personal stuff, but it always leaks into the yard when my emotional state isn’t perfect.
  • We had a massive hailstorm and the lightning damaged our gate, borehole pump, and power supply.
  • I lost the ride on my beautiful Nell.
  • Magic colicked. Again.

    Yes, again

    What’s God’s own stableyard to do faced with such catastrophes? Well, pray and trust Him. And well… Romans 8:28.

    • Olive recovered beautifully and not a single other horse contracted her thing. As a result, we’re tightening our vaccination program and have instituted a quarantine period for all new horses. Olive and my mom also developed an amazing bond, which is so great for the floof because she never really connected with me.
    • Not only did all the strangles horses recover without any abscesses bursting, Milady’s 5-day-old foal didn’t get it! Also I am probably going to pass the illnesses section in my exam, which I had been worried about…
    • My mom and dad told our yard mascot cookie lady prayer warrior awesomeness about the financial whack of losing two weeks’ lessons. She declared that we would get the money back and went straight to battle on her knees. Shortly thereafter, a client that had been owing us for months paid. Mom called to tell her that she’d overpaid a little – turned out she’d paid us by “accident”. I don’t believe in accidents.
    • The outbreak and all its drama drew me closer and closer to God; without the strength I gained from that, I doubt there’s any way I could have coped with the personal stuff.
    • The hailstorm brought with it the best rain we’ve had in three years. Now we’re up to our eyeballs in grass for the cows and horses.
    • I thought Nell’s new owner was some spoilt rich kid until I spoke to her mom. She’s a special needs teenager, someone who needs a beautiful, loving horse even more than I do. Nell is going to be an instrument of God’s power in her life – just as she was in mine. Nell’s price is also letting her retired owner replace his wrecked vehicle and is helping towards his medical bills.
    • Gutted about Nell, without a good dressage horse, my future career seemingly in tatters, I prayed: “Lord Jesus, if it’s not Your will for me to compete extensively myself, if I should conserve those resources for the kids, then please don’t let me ever have a good horse again. But if it’s Your will, please, send me one.” I prayed this ready to face the fact that I would never go up the levels: I just don’t have the money to build up the yard for everyone that needs it and own a good dressage horse, and I know which one I’m choosing. Hours later, Nell’s owner called: in return for schooling Nell, he wanted to pay me a commission. I couldn’t bear to accept money for the blessing Nell has been, so I refused it. “Okay,” he said. “Then you can come and pick out any young mare you like to train and show.” I hesitated; I didn’t know if I wanted to go through this heartache again so soon. “No, you don’t understand,” he said. “This one will be yours. In your name. You keep her.” Then I just cried, out of gratitude to him, out of awe of the dynamic and real power of God and His plan in our lives.
    • Magic’s colic was so bad we had to box him and take him to Witbos, the vets that fixed him last time. On the way there, I desperately called on everyone I know and a bunch of people on Facebook that I don’t to pray for him. We all prayed, and when we unloaded him, that horse was fine. The rather puzzled vets scanned his healthy guts, kept him under observation for two hours, and sent him home because there was nothing wrong with him.

    Nothing wrong with this

    We will praise God no matter what the storm. Because our God is faithful, our God is powerful, and our God is in charge.

    The condition for a miracle is difficulty. The condition for a great miracle is impossibility. And that’s exactly what we have seen.

    Glory to the King.

    I think this is their way of praising Him

    A Happy Place

    Guys, they are not kidding about this job being hard. But it’s my happy place.

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    Isn’t it wonderful?

    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.

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    At least now we can sorta dressage

    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.

    Bruno2
    That little face ❤

    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.

    Olive4
    Hullo. Wuv me.

    All glory to the King.

     

    Meet the Starters

    With Bruno and Lancelot being well started, nevertheless I haven’t run out of unbacked babies. I have a queue of starters waiting for me (two Appaloosas, an Arab, a rather interesting crossbred, a Welsh pony and Exavior himself – and those are just the ones actually at the yard) but I have only so many rides in me every week, so right now I’m working on two of the loveliest grey ladies in the world.

    Olive1

    This is Olive, our first draft at the yard. She is a bit of a crossbred but there is a whole lot of Percheron there, which makes her fluffy and huge with extra helpings of adorable. She arrived in June with only very basic work done – a bit of halter training and a lot of friendliness towards people – and has made good progress.

    True to draft form, she is the sweetest thing on four legs, which has made her trainable despite not being the sharpest knife in the drawer. We started out with basic lunging, where she proved much more forward-going than I expected of such a big floof,

    Olive2

    and now we have moved on to the roller and desensitisation and pressure-release exercises and finally, weight. (Although I don’t think my mass compared to Olive’s can really be called “weight”.)

    Olive1

    As expected from a homebred, she was pretty cool about being desensitised and not bad about weight. It took a few sessions for her to stop mouthing the bit incessantly, but I finally reverted to an old trick I learned from the Mutterer (AKA king of starting youngsters) and just left her in the round pen with the bridle on for half an hour. With all her brainpower free to figure out this new question, she was relaxed about it by the time I returned and we haven’t had a hitch since.

    The second starter is the drop-dead-gorgeous Quinni.

    Quinni1

    Quinni is impeccably bred, with some of the best Nooitgedachter blood in history blended with her Anglo-Arab sire to create one of the nicest young horses I have ever seen. She is drool-worthy from her impressive size and conformation to her wonderful floatiness. Add in a dash of cuteness, a high IQ and a darling personality, and you have me sold.

    HorseMeme1

    Sadly for me, although I am casually on the lookout for a fancy dressage horse, I am broke and Quinni is older than what I was looking for. Also, her owner is set on keeping her for a broodmare, a decision which I wildly applaud. Lots of baby Quinnis running around can only be a good thing.

    This has not prohibited me from enjoying my time with her. We had a bit of a sticky start when she came down with a horrific acute biliary, but she’s a fighter and kicked that bug with a vengeance. I had started her on the lunge and popped a saddle on her at her breeder’s, so she bounced back quickly from her illness and waltzed through her groundwork without apparent effort. The horse is naturally balanced, intelligent, eager to please and sensitive – what more could you ask for? I was expecting a little fireworks when I sat on her the first time, as she does have that sensitive streak that can cause issues during starting, but I needn’t have worried. Her first three rides were among the easiest I have ever had on a baby.

    Quinni1
    my face says it all

    After getting thrown from Dirkie last year I truly thought it would be more than a year before I pulled myself together enough to get back on a baby, especially a bigger baby like these two. But of course, God is faithful and the power of Christ is in me.

    And I had help.

    Bruno1
    one of those ponies that I know I’ll never forget