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.
Sorry y’all – chaos, once again, has descended upon us, but here’s a brief recap. Professional photos to follow! (I hope!)
Thursday was coloured horses day, but our class was only at 13:50, so first we exercised all the horsies and hung out. Renè in particular was not a fan of the whole stable thing, but she was angelic to ride.
Arwen’s leg hadn’t blown up at all in the night. I put her on the lunge line (in the parking lot, for fear of destroying somebody’s fancy horse in an arena) and she went ballistic for 20 minutes. After that the leg was dead normal and Arwen was greatly satisfied.
Midas and Renè schooled together, so obviously Midas was angelic. He didn’t bat an eye at anything and even jumped some reasonably sized fences – 60-70cm – in the abandoned warmup arena.
I also rode Tara one last time. She and Zara went back to their owner after the show, but we had a really excellent ride. I did lunge first, but she really didn’t fuss at all.
The class itself was really wet, which was a pity because Rain and I put a lot of effort into the turnout. Zara was a little up but not bad at all, and both girls behaved well in the bucketing rain but didn’t really place anywhere.
Then we all went back to our overnight place (thank you overnight place people! You know who you are!) and fell in a heap. More on the Nooitie day and supremes later, because I am about to do the same.
As is obligatory for prep day before an important show, Monday dawned icy and bucketing with rain. We sat in traffic for hours, but we made it there safely and in time – head groom T, the two pintos, their owner and I.
As it continued to pour outside, we got the plaits done with moments to spare. The rain, if cold and inconvenient, was beautiful – the thirsty earth seemed to suck it right in, ready to produce its bounty. Less poetically, Tara had mud all up her legs when we headed for the ring.
This did not appear to hinder her too much. She behaved absolutely impeccably, not turning a hair at anything and even standing quietly for inspection. Not bad for a baby at a first outing in icy rain. She came second to Zara handled by T, who was a little skittish but quite sane and obedient.
Zara went on to win Supreme Sport Horse of the Year in hand, which was fantastic and definitely a good start to both her and T’s showing career.
Today was even colder and wetter. We had to be in the ring at 8:00 for the first of our general breed classes, so to beat the traffic we were out catching horses at 4:00. In the pitch dark. And the pouring rain. Needless to say, they were less than cooperative. Renè refused to be caught for the first time in her existence and Exavior reared four times and slipped his halter. One way or another, they all managed to box quite well albeit naked but for poll guards, so off we went. I was wondering what had possessed me to think this would ever be a good idea, but then again, it wasn’t my idea. It was God’s, and He’s got it all figured out.
The traffic was still not on our side, so plaiting was a rushed affair on a plunging dumb warmblood (not my finest hour – after getting leapt on top of and trampled, I swore at him. Loudly. Not cool, Christian girl) but we got it done and headed for the show ring.
I don’t have a middle-of-the-road when it comes to Exavior. Either I think he’s the best and most beautiful horse in the world, or I want to kill him with my bare hands. Plaiting involved much of the former, but he proceeded to be angelic for his actual class. A bit bolshy and fidgety, of course, but no rearing or stupidness. To my pleasant surprise, he placed fifth, beating a more mature horse and a nice youngster.
Midas’s first in hand class was straight thereafter and he seemed to be bent on exploding my eardrums. He really wasn’t bad, but hadn’t had time to settle and wanted his buddies so he whinnied the whole time. He did trot up and stand OK, so that was good. He ended up unplaced, but his competition was strong and much older and didn’t attempt to burst people’s eardrums.
Next there was much frantic plaiting as K prepped Renè and with my li’l sister Rain and T doing the plaiting and me doing the parting and stitching, we managed to get the pintos and Arwen all ready. All four of us were showing in the same class, hence I had roped Rain in to show Arwen.
Arwen was a little overexcited, but the two of them looked incredible and performed at their best for seventh of fourteen in (in the judge’s words) a strong class. I was extremely chuffed, given that Arwen had kicked some very nice butts.
K’s superpower is plaiting; she managed to cram Renè’s torrent of mane into the most beautiful little buttons. Renè’s muscle tone isn’t quite there yet, so they didn’t place, but she behaved beautifully.
Tara also didn’t get a place, but she was once again bombproof and obedient as they come. Some lucky ammy is going to have the best time ever on this pretty mare.
Zara and T placed 9th, a very respectable position for Zara’s age, and she was very quiet too. Although I was chuffed that Arwen had done so well, it did mean that Rain beat all three of us – so now we owe her chocolate. And now she must show my brats in hand for me because obviously the judges like tall leggy blondes. (Who doesn’t?)
We settled our junior groom in, undid the manes, and kissed the ponies good night before going to crash at our overnight spot.
It had been such a challenging morning and I’d been tired, frustrated, despondent and disappointed but walking into that mares’ class with four horses was just a brilliant feeling. Financially we should never have been able to do it; we have limited facilities; we don’t buy super fancy horses; I’m not an experienced or particularly talented coach or rider. Yet two years ago I was sitting in the grandstands and the yard was nothing but a wild hope. One year ago we only had three horses that could show at all. And this year we walked into a class with four beautiful horses that I was honoured to present in that important class.
It sure wasn’t me that got us this far, and I don’t have to worry about getting us further, because it’s always all been God’s doing.
Despite an ominous start on Friday evening, beginning with Exavior rearing repeatedly as I tried to bath him and ending at about 10:00pm after driving up and down and half the horses escaping their stables, Pre-HOY was amazing.
I suspect it was amazing because it started so badly that I immediately realised I was not going to cope and gave the heavy burden to Somebody strong enough to carry it: my Daddy God. And He obviously did what He always does – miracles.
It rained all day Friday, so bathing them all was rather a problem. Mercifully, the pintos scratched, and we had a two-hour window that afternoon that enabled us to bath Vastrap and Midas and do something about Exavior’s grubby socks. At that point, the bays, Liana and Arwen were just going to have to cope.
We boxed Midas, Exavior, Renè and Sunè up that evening. They behaved remarkably well and settled in nicely, so while we ran around sorting out our poor junior groom’s tent they were pretty much unobtrusive.
The next morning, their good behaviour had run out. Renè, Sunè and Exavior were busy trying to climb into the resident horses’ stables to steal their breakfast and harrassing the resident grooms while Junior Groom stood shellshocked and stared at them and Midas shrieked with indignation, abandoned by his buddies but unable to climb out because he was too short.
We stuffed them back inside and managed to keep them there while I scrubbed Sunè’s sock and got Xave plaited up. He behaved remarkably well and I began to think maybe my head wouldn’t be kicked in after all.
Shortly thereafter, Dad arrived with Arwen, Liana, and Vastrap. VT had been turned out in a muddy field all night but miraculously he was positively glowing with cleanliness. Small miracles.
And with the turnout more or less done and everybody behaving great, off we went to compete.
Exavior, despite my misgivings, was a superstar. I had a very long lead and a whip and a helmet and I didn’t need either of them because he didn’t even think of rearing. He was much too worried about his surroundings to sass his mother, so barring one huge spook, he was respectful and listened to what I said. Everything else in the class being like ten years old and fat, he came stone last, but I was just chuffed with how well behaved he was. Wherever this rollercoaster ride with him is headed, God is definitely steering.
Next there was chaos as the in-hand for the Nooities had been combined, to my great consternation. My kids were on the ball and all marched in perfectly turned out and right on time. I arrived late, red-faced, breathless and having scratched Midas, with Sunè very wide-eyed on the end of the lead, her mane sticking up in all directions.
I was a dishevelled mess. Sunè, however, was a trooper. She didn’t look at anything, she didn’t fidget, and she didn’t bat an eye at being shunted into a new arena with a panicking trainer. She was the youngest and most nondescript in the class so obviously the kids and their gorgeous ponies roundly kicked our butts, but I couldn’t be happier with her. Vastrap ended up coming second and going to supremes, with Liana and Renè third and fourth. (No, my mom is never going to let me hear the end of it).
We went back up for show riding in convoy; Liana and her kid, Renè and yard rat K, and Midas and I. I expected Midas to be nutty because he hadn’t had a class to do in-hand or even get out of his stable all day, but he was phenomenal. Even better than Bruno was at his first show. He remembered his training, he focused, he didn’t spook, and when he got looky he just dealt with it and carried on.
Liana’s kid was very nervous – real little perfectionist, so I sympathise – which made sensitive Liana very nervous too, but with the help of K’s mom they scraped it up off the floor and came a well-deserved second in the strong class. It takes a lot to pick yourself up like that. Renè and K were third, with Renè being completely relaxed and indifferent to everything despite it only being her second outing ever.
Midas remained awesome despite having to do his simple changes in the middle of a giant puddle and he won the class, being the only one in the partbreds. In the enormous Supremes class he was shouting for his girlfriend and got a little strong when all like 30 of us were cantering around and circling and overtaking, but the second I asked him down to trot I got it. I was endlessly happy with him. Couldn’t have asked for better at a first show.
Show classes done and dusted, we moved on to the working classes in typical Morning Star Stables fashion; wildly excited riders, Arwen bucking and snorting because she hadn’t had time to warm up, and K running up wailing because her numnah had gone AWOL at a critical moment. In between the madness, Arwen jumped her working hunter round. Well, let’s just say it would have been a good showjumping round. She galloped, sideways, at the fences snorting fire at them; I hung on somewhere in the clouds of smoke emanating from her nose, and she ate up every fence barring the down bank combination. There she had to stop and check how high it was before launching directly forward, almost leaving me behind. Our gallop was blinding but somehow I managed to get her down to a very quiet halt for the judges, who sat there and stared at us, aghast. We did not place well. I had the best time ever, and so did Arwen, who proceeded to merrily chomp on the grass beside the arena when I untacked her for the conformation.
Working riding wrapped up the day with Arwen, Vastrap and his kid, and K and Renè. The course was fairly challenging; beginning with fairly scary raised trot poles, then a line of gigantic white umbrellas we had to weave through, followed by a barrel with a truly scary giant pink cow on it. The cow had to be picked up and carried at a canter the five strides or so to the next barrel. Then there was a highly spooky brush lane with a black rubber mat in it and a small jump made of straw bales. Last, we had to halt and dismount onto a wall of black boxes before leading our horses away.
Renè was first of the Morning Star horses to go and did us very proud. There’s not a lot of horses that can do working riding at their second show, let alone with poise and composure. She turned up her nose at the poles, plopped happily around the umbrellas, and didn’t mind the lane, the jump or the wall. She did have a very good look at the scary pink cow, but K was patient and let her have a sniff and that was that. They didn’t manage to canter with the cow or I think they would have placed well.
Vastrap coped beautifully with the difficult course. He actually trotted the trot poles this time, had a little look at the lane and took a minute to stand still by the wall, but his kid was glowing when they finished and he took great care of her.
Arwen slept the whole time in the lineup, punctuating this by throwing her head and yawning massively. I was feeling my late night and in-hand classes, so I basically did the same, barely waking up enough to watch the kids go. When it was our turn I made a bleary effort to rouse Arwen for the trot poles, but she still clonked them roundly. Then we aimed for the umbrellas and suddenly she lit up. Dragons to kill! Certain she would spook, I kicked her; she broke to canter for half a stride and then I realised I had to basically just hang on and steer. So that’s what I did. It took all my effort to hold her down to trot for the lane and umbrellas because she was so excited and dragoning magnificently. The cow posed no problem; my steering did, and we overshot the barrel by half a stride, which we remedied by performing a perfect turn on the haunches. Of course, the jump and the wall did not pose any problem for this dragon. I’m not totally sure that working riding horses are supposed to get excited, but at least she wasn’t in the least spooky.
Apparently the judges enjoyed this new take on working riding, though, because beautiful Arwen was reserve interbreed champion in a strong class. I could almost pop. God so knows what He’s doing. I miss Nell, but she’s in a happy permanent home now. And now Arwen gets her chance to shine.
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 learned my lesson from the disastrously chaotic Nooitie shows last year: now we’re preparing early. Horse of the Year starts in a little over five weeks and we’re already in a flat spin trying to sort everything out for it. We’re going to be stuck there all week, competing every single day with nine horses and five handlers.
Liana, Vastrap and Renè are going with their respective kids. L and VT have done it all before and will be just fine; Renè is a good old Arop Nooitie mare, viz., she will also be just fine.
I also have fair amounts of confidence in Zara and Tara, since they’re just doing in-hand and were ready for it in the end of November (we were meant to do a coloured show, only it cancelled).
Arwen, obviously, has totally got this. Arwen has always got this.
No, my worries are the three babies that are just about to start their career with me, beginning with the Pre-HOY training show in a couple weeks.
Exavior is going to his first show ever. Just in-hand, obviously, but six months ago I couldn’t even get him out of his field without him trying to jump on my head. He’s been lovely to handle at home but I’m not totally sure if that will carry over to the show environment. So if you see a giant chestnut streak galloping about with a little flappy rag doll on the end of its lead, that’d be us.
Midas is inspiring more confidence than I’d expected; the poor little chap has had so little saddle time but he’s been entered in show riding at Pre-HOY and hopefully will do show hack at HOY itself, too. But despite my initial misgivings, he’s pretty much there. Three good paces, simple changes, starting to connect himself nicely. Quite good enough for a first show at novice methinks.
Sunè completes the lineup, and I do have some trepidation about her. Since I’m not able to ride two horses in one showing class she won’t be doing ridden at Pre-HOY, but I would really like her to be ridden at HOY so I can sell her easier. In-hand she’s also still very green and wobbly, but that at least should be OK. We’ll see what she’s ready for and take it at her speed.
We arrived at Sunlands only moderately late, which was rather impressive given that the wheels had fallen off on the way there. Literally.
Okay, so it was only one wheel, and so there were still two very precarious wheelnuts holding it on, but it was the closest I would ever like to come, thank you very much. We limped the last ten kilometres, with the Mutterer and I both eyeballing the wobbling wheel in the rearview mirror, and made it on a wing and a prayer. Also literally.
Once there we unloaded the motley crew: Lancelot for his first outing at ground poles, Zorro and his kid (let’s call her Z-kid) for 60 and 70cm, working student K and her Nooitie mare Renè, and Magic. The latter was eye-poppingly nervous and spooking wildly at nothing, his adrenalin absolutely sky high and my heart correspondingly low. It looked like another disaster was imminent, but I had zero intention of clocking up yet another rider fall this year and had basically decided to just hack in the warmup until his brain came back.
Turns out God decided to use this for good, as usual. Instead of a disaster, my ride was an epiphany.
I have always been looking for the magic solution (no pun intended) to Mr. Quirkypants’s panic attacks. Always looking for a trigger or a quick fix or just some reliable way to talk him down off his ledge. Never finding it, I’ve always had to resort to just walking him and staying calm until he got calm. And on this day I stumbled across two facts that I am just stoked to finally know:
Magic’s trigger is not a sight or sound, it’s a state of mind. Usually mine.
Magic’s fix is not an exercise or a gadget… it’s a state of mind. Usually mine.
I breathed him down. I always try to settle myself before working on the horse, but when I got myself settled, he was miraculously settled! A rudimentary principle I suppose, but I have just never seen it so dramatically before.
So I got myself back and then he came back and we jumped all clear rounds for third in the 70cm. Here’s jump-off video! We even angled a fence!!
Zorro and Z-kid had a superb show. At his last one he had two eliminations and I was ready to wring his neck for him but I must apologise to him because he hasn’t run out, not once, since the chiro saw him and put about a gazillion bones back into alignment. Sorry Zorro.
This show he was totally on his game despite last competing in April. They won the 60 and were well on their way to winning the 70 when during the jump-off one of the Z-kid’s stirrups came flying off. The stirrup bar was faulty and the whole thing just popped right off and klonked poor Zorro in the knees. They were halfway over the first element of a combination but Z-kid didn’t even wobble and rode the second element with one stirrup and great poise, to applause from the audience. They had to retire, but on the bright side I now have an awesome story to tell the kids when they don’t want to do no-stirrups.
In between all this I was also riding Lancelot in the ground poles. He boxed, travelled, waited and behaved like a superstar; I had like two and a half seconds to warm up in a teensy arena with a thousand tiny kids on schoolies, but he was right there with me. Nervous and sticky of course but listening. His first round was rather halting and wiggly, but he trotted the second one very happily with only one enormous steering glitch. For a spooky Arab, I’ll take it any day!
K and Renè had their first outing too but Renè is a Nooitie so she came out completely chilled and babysat Lancelot. They just pottered through their ground poles without turning a hair even though poor old Renè has jumped exactly one fence in her life and never been ridden at a show before.