The seasons are changing here yet again, and I’m feeling the pressure of a coming winter with my clippers currently still out of commission.
On the bright side, we’re fully stocked on blankets and our grazing is holding up great. We’ll have to see how it does as standing hay, but for now, the horses are still up to their eyeballs in grass thanks to a late rain.
We are forecast for more late rains followed by a bitterly cold winter. Something that a yard manager in the middle of midge-borne African horse sickness country is not complaining about.
We held our third in-house training show on the 7th of April. Darling got to spend his birthday building courses and supplying me with chocolate milk. At least the poor soul knew what he was getting himself into. It was a small show but a resounding success as far as I can tell.
I found photographic evidence of two things: my first time on a pony, and my mom’s shapely figure – at three months pregnant, none the less.
Faith, somewhat inadequately babysat by Midas, went on her first hack. She was fabulous, if on occasion a little overexcited.
Zorro escaped his field and invaded the tack storage in the night, then got the cookie jar stuck on his foot. As you do. No harm was done, except to the horse cookies that had been in the cookie jar.
K’s mom booked a lesson with international eventer Paul Hart for my birthday. Jamaica and I charged over all manner of things,
and houses. He was foot perfect except for a jump with water under it, and our coach was suitably impressed. How awesome is God’s plan?
Thunder remains the one whose four dancing hooves carry me to a place where the world and its burdens just can’t go. ❤
We had a brilliant time of it at SANESA Q3, with three of our riders qualifying for Finals with another qualifier to spare.
Despite flat refusing to get into the two-berth, Milady came second and managed to put the smile back on K’s face.
Few things make me happier than this arena, freshly harrowed. I am awed by what God has provided.
Faithy rode in the rain and behaved impeccably, cantering her first full laps around the dressage arena. She can be quite scared of cantering but each session is a little better thanks to my carrying on as if she is the most amazing horse in the world. She kind of is.
Grumpy old Benjamin is 21 now but still knows how to open practically every gate there is, regularly escaping his little paddock to gorge on the lush grass, forbidden due to his laminitis.
Titan is going fabulously, now working in a frame and having been introduced to some little fences. We’ll make something of him yet.
As for the old queen of the herd, she still reigns in ageless beauty. 29 years old and still a reason to believe.
More thorough updates to follow. Glory to the King.
We need grass, desperately. But the grass was shrivelling up and dying, until this week. As prayer meetings were held in Parliament, my own little prayers were answered.
This meant a slow week for lessons, but we managed to cram all the training sessions in, too, sometimes in the restless wind and pelting droplets that precede the real storms so characteristic to the moody weather of this place that I love.
I schooled Arwen in the rain. To all appearances, she loved it. We are working on a much slower schedule lately. God willing, we’ll finally get that last elusive grading point in two weeks’ time. We’re schooling dressage once a week, playing with our showing tests in preparation for next year once a week, and hacking at least once a week. This new schedule is part necessity – new training horses are eating my free time – and part relief; we were both getting frustrated with struggling with dressage. A day of basics every week is doing our relationship wonders.
Then it rained some more. With our rain coming from the south – the direction in which we have the best view – we can see the storms coming from miles way. The sight is majestic, slightly terrifying, and so beautiful it hurts; awesome in the original sense of the word. I wonder sometimes if glimpsing God would be a little like it. Too beautiful to make sense of, terrifying, life-giving.
Poor Faith was utterly neglected this week, with only one session, but it was a good one. We’re getting relaxation in walk and trot now, so we introduced a bit of canter to our lunging sessions. Her canter is somewhat graceless at the moment, but to be fair we have only done two laps on each rein while panicking slightly.
Lovely Lady Erin started to outgrow her ugly stage,
and headed off to her new home. She travelled like a little superstar. I miss her. ❤
The moody sky is absolutely stunning.
Especially as sunset heralds the arrival of another night shift on volunteer duty. I don’t work on the response vehicles, but I do like taking pictures of their pretty lights. For this born-and-bred farm girl, it feels really weird to look up and see streetlights.
Icey helps me teach almost every afternoon, sometimes from the comfortable perch of my left toe.
Champagne has been doing so, so well. Going large is easy now, and she hardly ever spooks properly anymore. Occasionally her ears will look and her head will go up, but she seldom actually jumps. Even then it’s just a jump and then we go back to work. We’re riding full dressage tests and jumping some fences now. Regrettably, her actual dressage schooling took a bit of a knock between having to spend two weeks just lunging and then working so hard on relaxing about the big arena, but that’s an easier fix than the anxiety.
Ashy and Lulu remain two of my most trusted colleagues. Please stay sound, old girls.
This storm came in pitch black, and really soaked the earth at last. It also washed away some of the dressage arena, but c’est la vie. We’ll shovel it up and put it back.
That dark sky was a scary but most welcome sight.
And followed by a fragment of rainbow, blazing in a gap amid the clouds as the storm retreated.
This is Antwone, the new client horse. I do wish I saw him more often, but he’s a clever little biscuit, so we should still achieve something. He may be one of the most adorable little horses I’ve ever seen with the whole Friesian look plus Arab ears, crammed into all of 14 hands. He had his first coltish moment when I was bringing him in for work on Friday and received his first proper hiding, too, so that was the end of that. His lunging is coming on well, he has an obvious understanding of the commands already and three good gaits, but he’s nervous to canter in the small lunge ring at the client’s place. Their big ring is being repaired so that’ll go better soon.
I saved the best news for last. By the grace of God – and the kindness of Coach K, and the steadiness of Jamaica – I passed Module 4. In fact, the riding paper was my highest mark by far. I would have liked to see a better mark for the lunging lesson, but the main thing is that I passed everything. I scraped the group but that was just botched time management that caused me to have to skip some things I really wanted to do. I taught a lesson when I was supposed to be sitting an exam and had to rush through the last half.
If you’d told me that by the end of this year I’d be working on – and helping – severely remedial horses and passing the personal riding section of Module 4 (with its dreaded 85cm jumps) with 91%, I would not have believed you. That’s because I couldn’t do it.
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.
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.
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.
It’s an unashamed photo dump. But it’s long overdue. Besides, a) I’m almost out of memory, b) the Internet needs more pictures of Morning Star horsies.
This is Bahroe, an Arab gentleman that I had a temporary ride on.
Bahroe lives at a beautiful yard, which was fun working at. Here he’s being watched from the stable by Sevita, who I also got to ride.
August came and went, bringing with it the atrocious combination of winds and shedding. On the bright side, Nugget took her first selfie. ❤
Eagle and L have been on a few hacks, kitted out in Eagle’s new stuff. He’s become something of a plod – anybody can hack him.
Blizzard also got new stuff, which fits him like a glove. I also love the cage stirrups for novice owners, especially considering Eagle’s mom had a stirrup-related crash. We don’t need any more of those, thanks.
I have given Milady to K for next year (and afterward). Ash is the priority to get in foal this year and K needs something for when Renè sells, and the two of them get along famously. So I took the two OTTB mares on a hack and they were both fabulous.
Thunny gained most of his condition back after taking a bit of a hit during August, as they often do. His coat testifies that it wasn’t all that much of a hit, too.
Blizzard and I did hours and hours of hacking, usually accompanied by Eagle and L. Blizzard is such a steady little chap, although he occasionally thought of kicking at Eagle, but never got as far as actually doing it.
My very nervous kid still hasn’t been back on a pony. I don’t push the issue. We spend a lot of time playing with in-hand utility and lungeing and grooming and herding cows. He’ll be ready when he’s ready.
These two little nuggets about 75% killed me going on a solid hour’s hack, accompanied by yours truly afoot, and constantly wanting to go up hills and trot and stuff. One of the most wonderful and painful hours of my life so far, methinks.
Beautiful Lisna found a new home as a happy hack for a truly lovely lady. She landed with her bum in the butter, but we definitely miss her – not least me because she was amazing in the riding school.
K and her mom still squeezed in a last hack on Eagle and Lisna as I tagged along behind on Savanna, to date the only TB I’m comfortable hacking.
I do still ride Eagle myself, too, and he’s angelic. The yard looks so manageable from here. Pocket-sized, as if I could scoop it all up in my hand and keep it safe. I can’t, but I’m glad I know Someone Who can.
Magic’s last day turned out without overreach boots – this was shortly before I found him literally covered in blood. It was all over his belly and hindlegs in great melodramatic splatters. It speaks to the horse’s action-prone nature that I wasn’t even panicked, just relieved that he was upright and still had four legs glued on. He’d overreached horrendously and it bled and bled. Now his special expensive booties stay on 24/7 and he refrains from ripping off his own coronary band.
Hacking with this lot. Fellowship on horseback under the glorious sun. ❤
I tried to give Faith an apple. She had no idea what it was, even after I bit a piece off for her. I feel like a horse mom failure.
Champagne continues to work on her cow phobia. I actually managed to lead her into the field with the cows; she did panic and bolt at one point, whereon I received a well-earned bruised knee and wrenched shoulder for pushing her too hard, but we got it together. Now she’s still got a bit of an obsession about the spooky end at C, but most cows are OK.
Eagle and L, Ash’s old owner on Ash, and Blizzard and I herded our cows a bit as we came across them on a hack. Blizzard was fantastic about it, except when one of the cows didn’t want to move he nibbled her bum.
I think this is Skye’s first selfie, too. She was not amused. Apparently old battle queens don’t do the selfie thing. She is so well. ❤
Nugget does do it now though, even without a halter and lead. I can pick up her hind feet with a rope and L can even put bug stuff on her in the evenings. Progress!
Arwen’s herd got out into the passageway one morning and I felt like an epic horse whisperer when they all followed me back in. (It was feeding time).
My last ride on Destiny. Content with his training, his owners took him back to their nearby stableyard, where he and his mom both seem to be thriving. It was an incredible journey with this little brat and I thank God for it.
Blizzard is getting pretty ammy-proof. Toodling bareback in a halter? Check.
Almost nine years into our relationship, this horse still makes my heart skip a beat sometimes. ❤
She turned eleven on the first of September. The world is a better place for her being in it – I know my world is.
My comrade, my crazy dragon friend, and the one who’s got my back – I thank God for my Arwen.
Horses have been many things to me: an instrument of salvation, a gift from above, a storm, a heartbreak, a dream, the shattering of dreams, a gut-wrenching fear, a hope for the future, companionship, courage, a calling. But now, “my” horses – mine like siblings; they were always His – are, to me, worship.
My dance partners are how I praise the Lord when words won’t do. And they often don’t. Together, we sing the glory of the God too big for words, so big He’s praised in tiny things: a breath, a smile, a touch. Not only in dressage, but in grooming, in carrot stretches, in liberty.
Sometimes, of course, it’s a hot mess. Sometimes it’s all about percentages and my own inadequacies and fear and failure and shortcomings and temper and frustrations. It melts down and becomes something blackened and ugly. Then I sit in the wreckage, with a spooked and resistant horse and a broken heart, and I wonder how I could ever be forgiven.
Then I cry. And then worship becomes healing. It becomes the place where I can’t hold on and fall, only to find He was holding tight, all along.
It becomes forgiveness.
The world has been so heavy lately. I crack often under the pressure, with ugly consequences. So I have been giving much thought to surrender.
Horses have always been a place where I hear God’s voice speaking. And He speaks to me now.
I hear Him in the softness of Faith’s coat while I’m grooming and in the eagerness of her step while we work through the most basic stuff: trotting in hand, stopping without climbing on top of me, investigating the inside of a stable for the first time.
It’s all just the building blocks of being a horse in a world full of humans, but there’s nothing mundane about the threefold cord where loving God meets worshipping woman meets feeling beast.
I hear Him in the depths of our conversations, when I realise day by day that the horse I picked out of a field in fifteen minutes even though the others had better conformation – the horse I picked on the prompting of the Spirit, in faith – that horse has the most incredible, curious, thinking, eager and willing mind.
I hear Him in the playfulness of Magic’s body language as we play with rein back, turn on the forehand, lunging, little fences all without even a touch, with sounds and gestures. It shouldn’t work but it works for him, and it’s playtime for the both of us at the end of the day when we’ve both been facing our giants and just want to enjoy the beautiful world for once.
I hear Him in the shift of Thunder’s back, the swing of it, the suppleness. I hear Him in the joy that leaps inside me when I feel him melt and move between hand and leg with a newfound softness that can only be born of relaxation, of joy – his, not mine.
His transitions are so much better now. I’ve been more disciplined about not saying what I don’t mean with my leg, and suddenly I can speak in touches and breaths.
I don’t delight so much because it’s brilliant, anymore. I delight because it’s ours and we’re His. It’s a different place. Somewhere almost holy.
I hear Him in the courage of Arwen, in her fire, in the dauntless enthusiasm with which she bursts out and attacks every task she’s given.
I hear Him when our canter-walks stay terrible, when she doesn’t stretch in the circle with break of contact, when she hollows into the transition – yes, I hear Him even then, louder than our mediocrity, louder than the fact that I don’t really know what I’m doing at this level just yet. I hear Him louder and every day we get just a little bit better – at dressage, at each other, at life.
And I hear Him sing in the shine on Skye’s coat and the light in her eyes and the way we still know each other better than anybody else.
I hear Him, and He just keeps saying the same thing over and over with that particular relentless compassion and unquenchable determination and ineffable patience that only He has: “I Am, I Am bigger, and I love you. I Am, I Am bigger, and I love you.”
That’s why, though I fail, though I fall, though it’s too heavy, though I let Him down, though I hurt him, though I break, though I am nothing – that’s why I call Him Abba. Abba is a Hebrew word, and it doesn’t mean Father.
It means Daddy.
So here’s one more thing the horses are to me: they are the place where I realise, again, anew, that I am in Abba’s arms.
Glory to the King.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15
After the emotional and spiritual high of last week, this one has left me a little flat. Make no mistake, we had good progress this week, including a lot of good rides and lessons and wonderful preparation for Finals tomorrow (these kids are amazing!), but I think we all felt a little rough around the edges after putting everything into pony camp.
I will give absolutely everything tomorrow, too, because my kids and ponies have been doing exactly that. Vastrap and his kid were so amazing on Tuesday that yesterday I just took them on a hack. They are so more than ready for whatever Finals will throw at them.
And after a bit of an unpromising lesson on Tuesday, Liana’s indomitable kid showed up to work on Thursday and gave it everything she had. Liana is hot and not always easy to keep rhythmic throughout a test but this kid absolutely nailed it. She’s going to ride her heart out at Finals because she always does.
Purple gloves make me happy, and so does Savanna. She is such a sweet, nonviolent, willing soul. She is desperately uneducated though, and it shows, but already after two or three weeks of work she’s starting to understand that there is no need to rush fences or cut corners. We still have a long way to go in terms of developing self-carriage and any form of technique, but obedience is already improving. From next week she’s in full training and competing with me, so that’ll be fun.
Champagne has been out of work for the above reason. Ah pony. Why? Six stitches and a week later and it’s almost healed, but it’s a pity we’ve lost that training time.
Magic is better at teenage girl selfies than I am.
He’s just better at selfies generally, really.
Skye has a nicer winter coat than anyone. She is really contented at the moment. Looking after Lady Erin seems to be all the stimulation she really needs; the old girl is happy to stand in a peaceful field and come in to do the Scripture reading before shows and get stuffed full of cookies. Especially the cookies, if we’re honest. She doesn’t crave people, although that’s not to say we don’t both enjoy grooming (and cookie-feeding).
Magic, on the other hand, is by no means ready for retirement. I had been toying with the idea a little. Riding has been either anxious or boring of late; I don’t want to push him with the flatwork, I can’t cope with the jumping, and he can’t cope with hacks. We lunge but that’s just exercise. We both really need a conversation; we need to spend quality time and not just be together, but talk and interact and learn things.
So, because he really enjoys groundwork, we’re playing with liberty. I know – I rolled my eyes reading the websites, too. (Ignore bad behaviour? So what do you do if it charges/bites/kicks/rears/pushes you around?) But it’s what Magic needs. He never gets stroppy. He never gets domineering. He needs something where there’s no pressure and lots of affirmation and this seems like fun. So here goes nothing, I guess.
I’m just gonna leave this right here because it makes me so happy seeing them regain their shine here.
Pretty Ash has been doing so well with L. Sound for 15 minutes’ trotting for several weeks now, we’ve added in some canter. It’s rather more canter than L is used to but Ash takes care of her. She is such a classy, attractive pony – I kind of wish we’d had her when she was younger and sounder and ready to take on the world.
I bought the dragon a nametag. Try not to laugh.
Speaking of dragons, we have been dressaging. More to come later. I’m using the double on her most of the time now. She does go better and yes, she should be able to do it in a snaffle, but the horse didn’t get a good foundation and right now we’re just muddling along trying to find what works for where we are now. Dressage coach S might come see us next month, then we can ask her opinion.
Nugget is incredibly content living with Magic. She’s in a better condition than ever before and even runs around the field playing with him – something I’ve never seen her do before. Unfortunately, after my week off and then pony camp, we’ve taken a bunch of steps back in handling. I haven’t gotten a halter back on her again. We’re making progress back there every day (I can rub her neck and shoulder now), so we’ll regain the lost ground quickly. I’m trying to make a point not to be upset about it, because there’s just no way I would have coped without the week off. And if I don’t cope there’s no yard and if there’s no yard there’s no safe haven for Nuggets.
On the jumping front, this was our exercise of the week; canter pole, couple of bounces, one stride, vertical. I added V-poles to the vertical later on. It was very challenging, especially for the kids, because they had to really ride the ponies up into their hands and get them to use themselves instead of just point and go. But it was confidence building for the horses and helped sharpen reflexes and round jumps nicely.
I found it confidence building too – so much so that the last vertical ended up at about a metre. My first in years, and Jamaica’s first under me. He just loped right on over and didn’t take it seriously enough to give it much scope, so it’s comforting to know he can do it and with such quietness.
He is such a blessing. If I had unlimited funds I would have bought him long ago. As it is, if I do pass Module 5, it’ll in large part be due to what God is doing for me with this funny-looking little horse.
Arwen has a jumping day each month, and she charged through it as well,
as did Destiny, Savanna (a simplified version), Thunder, and Lancelot. Lancey particularly impressed me because carefulness has been something we’ve long struggled with and he didn’t knock a single pole, except for rubbing the last vertical so that the V-poles fell off. He was kind of dorkward about it but he did the thing and I’m so so proud of the little chap.
I also started playing with an automatic release. My crest release is really good when it’s good, but disappears as soon as I’m nervous. I feel like I have to keep my hands back to keep my weight back in case the horse stops. It isn’t true, but it’s how it feels. The automatic is harder so it makes me concentrate on my lower leg and hip so that I can pull it off, but psychologically it’s significantly easier to follow the mouth slightly rather than toss my hands up the neck. I kinda like the result but I’m not dead sure yet.
And I’m throwing this in here too – G wasn’t able to exercise Pennie much last week, so I got to borrow her for a day and have some fun. Love this pony. She’s epic. Pictured: reason why I must learn a better release.
Eagle is going much better. He can be tricky to train for his novice owners; he’s never naughty, but he is responsive and forward-thinking by nature, so when you’re a novice trotting along and you panic and grab with your legs he’s probably going to go faster. We spent a lot of time installing some very sharp brakes and a relaxed halt, and he’s doing great.
They harvested the maize last week. The world suddenly looks bigger; and there’s not as much to spook at. I borrowed Dusty from the kids for a hack and remembered why I trust this little pony like nobody else.
This is Troy, who is my current favourite schoolie from Winstead. He is large and round and lazy but also jumps anything if you get him to go fast enough, so he’s my type. We were jumping over 80cm in fairly tricky exercises last lesson and he gives me a lot of courage. Thank you Troy (and coach K of course).
This cheeky adorable Faithy thing has been getting ideas above her station and picking fights with herd members, so now she has one kick on each hock. One more kick and I’ll move her out, but I suspect she’s doing something to provoke getting bullied. Bratty 2yo thinks she can rule the roost down there.
We have been having more conversations about the horsebox. She doesn’t walk right in yet, but if you show her you have cookies she’ll go in. She’s still learning about the world and I’m still learning about her, but I love her so much. Also she will do anything for cookies.
This is Meatlug (after the dragon – a greatly inappropriate name) and I think she’s beautiful. Those eyes…
Destiny has his ups and downs. Our personality clash makes for a difficult relationship, but we have been making really good progress. He’s so good on hacks now, jumped the difficult gymnastic, and is learning to move laterally off my leg.
Blizzard is trotting laps in the (amazing, new) ring now. Slanted poles are amazing, by the way – I haven’t had my knees smacked even once. He was scared of me posting at first, but his reaction to being scared is to stop dead, so that’s quite OK for a novice horse. We have some confidence building to do in trot but it won’t be long before we canter.
Lullaby has been a bit flat lately. I’ve tried the usual tricks – decreased workload, time off, a fun jumping session with a big kid – to no avail. She doesn’t seem unsound or in any physical trouble beyond the usual stiffness that we’re controlling with joint supplements, but there’s just a lack of her usual sparkle. I really hope her age and many years in the riding school aren’t catching up to her. I need her – we need her. But I’m her advocate. So we’ll try hacks and different food and so on until my stalwart little colleague is herself again. She has served so well for so long at such a thankless task.
My job is easy by comparison. It’s the least I can do to be as faithful as my good little ponies.
It was pony camp, which I always love because I get more than that single golden half-hour once a week with each child. I get a chance to listen. I get a chance to learn.
We had many kids, for us (12? 13? I’m honestly not sure) and I can confidently say they all impressed me this week. For sure some of them got told off rather sternly but they are all lights in the world. They all have their futures thrown wide before them and the knowledge that I had a whole week with them – a week that God could use to influence their lives – was a tremendous thing. Terrifying at times, but tremendous.
Bible study was something else. The first three days felt like they weren’t really going anywhere – I was preaching the Gospel, and they were listening (most of the time) like good little children. But such is Bible study, I’m finding. It takes a while to build the trust that makes it a conversation. On the last day, we ended up running 45 minutes long because the kids weren’t running out of questions. We sat together and had an open, candid, non-judgmental, honest and sincere discussion about God. Jesus was there and the Holy Spirit was working! It was a day that reminded me of what I’m here for.
Of course, much was learned about horses, too. We rode bareback (a first for most of the kids) and played that game where you give each child a coin under each lower thigh and the kid who manages to keep their coins the longest wins. This was to much hilarity, but regrettably, we lost almost all of the coins in the arena sand.
We also learned how to turn out a pony, to varied success. This was less of a hit with some of the boys, but for the most part they pulled together and did some rather stellar work. Trooper especially looked more dashing than I expected.
We also learned about the points of the horse, parts of the saddle and bridle, and colours and markings. The ponies were as usual entirely accepting of having stickers stuck all over them.
They also did an awesome job painting and decorating all our jumps,
and Kindness Rocks, which are now littered all over the yard. Some have rather imaginative spelling (and others are teetering precariously on top of poles, on the brink of falling upon somebody’s head like a bolt of divine inspiration) but they make me smile.
We jumped some jumps (pictured: head groom L winning at this) and limbo’d under others (not pictured: head groom L falling on her head trying to win at this).
There were no falls or serious injuries at all this pony camp, to my great relief. One kid did cut his finger on the fence, whereupon it bled magnificently, but it was nothing that making a big fuss, pulling on my blue gloves and sticking a Star Wars plaster couldn’t fix. I also got kicked halfway across the arena (walked behind a sleeping pony and touched its bum like an idiot) but luckily I went flying and skidded several metres so that seems to have taken the worst of the impact out of it. Young muscles do have their advantages.
The week culminated in today’s training show, our first ever. It was an outrageous success – by the grace of God. Literally. He was so with us. And I have no pictures. Sorry.
We opened with Scripture reading, a la Lipizzaners, by bringing in old Skye and reading Job 39:19-25. Not gonna lie, standing next to my brave old friend and facing the crowd (more than 80 people – it was quite the crowd) and the powerful words straight from my God’s mouth rolling over us, I got a little teary-eyed.
The POG class was enormous and consisted of basically everyone whether they could jump or not. But I only had two on the lead rein and everyone else remembered their track perfectly, even if they walked the whole thing. Lulu, Trooper (yes – the 3yo; ridden off lead by a 6yo kiddie. He was good except once he walked into an upright and it fell over), Stardust, Midas, Sunè, Renè, and Thunder all packed their kids around without putting a toe wrong. Starlight had a spook and cantered off causing a little panic, but the kid got her back and she was fine after that.
Lisna and E also trotted around the POG and 20cm effortlessly. Lisna didn’t look at a thing and E handled first-show nerves brilliantly.
Most notably, David and his person went around the POG in hand. A mighty feat considering all the fears that horse had to conquer to get there. I gave him a show name and it says everything about him: Facing the Giants. He has faced some incredible Goliaths.
The 20cm was more of the same, with the addition of Savanna and her teenager. Savanna has been SO naughty of late (used to following other ponies over jumps + now feeling rather too good = naughty) but she was super and her teenager rode her really, really well for clear rounds.
Rain and Arwen also popped around the 20cm and 30cm, to general applause. Arwen also packed another rider who she’s never seen before in her life around the 60cm and 70cm, kicking all of our bums in the process. That’s the dragonbeast for you. I love that about my dance partners – they can dance with me one day and carry random people around the next.
In the 40cm, Destiny got his first jumping win under his mom. Sunè and her kid also popped around beautifully and Starlight came second with a kid that will hopefully become her kid eventually.
In the 50cm, Liana and her kid charged around brilliantly for second place. Midas and his new little rider had their first show together and came third, and Pennie’s mom G jumped her young horse, Saartjie, for first place. When G got Saartjie about a year ago the pony had never seen a fence before in its life and I’ve never been on her so I am VERY chuffed with both. K and Renè also had a great clear round.
It was more of the same in the 60cm, with Arwen first, Saartjie second and Lancelot third – albeit having a rather gawky round because I was in the dressage saddle (the others were all taken) and mainly focused on not losing my stirrups. Lancey was amazing for the whole thing, jumping all clear rounds. We were all expecting Vastrap to win because he is awesome but he got a bit wild and threw in a stop – luckily for his child because I don’t think she could have sat the only distance available to him at that pace. He won the 70cm, with Lancey second and Arwen third.
The 80cm was only Pennie and G and Jamaica and I, and Maicy totally showed me again why I lease him. I was exhausted by this point and just sort of hung on and pointed him at the jumps. The distances were ugly, the rhythm was off, and we’d had one minute to warm up – but Jamaica just took me over each fence despite my mistakes. Good boy. He won it despite a rail down because Pennie got somewhat overexcited and crashed through a bunch of jumps.
The last class was called the 85cm but only because I didn’t want to say out loud that Jamaica and I were jumping a 90cm track. I needn’t have worried, though. Jamaica was superb. Both G and I had a pole down but Pennie was like 15 seconds faster so they won.
I am so happy with it – all of it. I feel so honoured to be among this group of horses and riders and to feel the buzz that was at this stableyard today. It’s more than just a good atmosphere brought about by mutual goodwill. It’s in me but not of me. It’s the Holy Spirit at work.
This evening I had one last job – herding the members of field A (Arwen’s group) back to their field, which was being used as a warmup. It was a short way along the corridor so I elected to just shepherd them along rather than catching each one. I whistled them up and Arwen led the charge, snorting fire. Magic caught on and started bucking in the neighbouring field and then suddenly they were all running – thirty-one shining, happy horses – each a thunder-clothed collection of graceful curves bursting with life and exuberance, the sky and earth trembling with the power of them. I was caught breathless in the whirlwind of it, and I understood what the psalmist meant when he said: Let everything that has breath praise the name of the Lord.
No eye has seen what He has prepared for us, but perhaps sometimes we catch the edge of Heaven’s melody, curling on the cusp of hearing.