Being a Little Brave

Today started with Revelation 1, and goosebumps down my arms at the terrifying description of our King with stars in His right Hand and a two-edged sword blazing forth from His mouth. Yet this majestic Person, this almighty Ruler of all that is and was and is to come, the Alpha and Omega, reached down to touch a lowly little worm of a man and said: “Fear not”.

This was the theme of my humdrum little day too, apparently. I’m a little shocked at how much God really has achieved in me, how far He’s taken me beyond the very limits of my courage.

I thought losing Nell and Rainbow would end the dream forever. Fear not, He said.

Faith is so fat and happy and shiny right now. And Thunder’s schooling today was amazing – I totally underestimated our big baby.

After a troubled little grey gelding called Dirkie bucked me off onto my hip, turning it several fascinating shades of red and purple, I thought I’d never start another youngster again in my life. Much less any sensitive or nervous ones.

But, Fear not, He said.

When I was hanging in the saddle over Eagle’s back like a sack of potatoes today, he gave this beautiful body-shaking big sigh and I knew he was ready. So I threw a leg over him and he slept for a few minutes while I patted him.

Also Destiny, to date one of the most remedial horses I’ve ever had on the ground, can now do walk/trot/canter large and circles in the dressage. He will reliably spook every session (only on the right rein and only in canter) but this has become rather half-hearted since I called his bluff.

I thought I’d never lead another hack with kids again, not after Jamaica chucked his kid off and broke her arm. The kid never missed a beat; I was thoroughly traumatised. But, Fear not, He said.

Sunè, Lullaby, Stardust
Liana and poor little Sunè again (willing horse…)

After years of falling off stoppers and dealing with poor old Magic’s nerves, I thought I’d never jump the required 85cm for module four, not even on a horse I know. But God said, Fear not, and today jumping an exercise at 85-90cm on Jamaica felt positively routine.

Arwen’s clipping last year was so horrific (like, going across the stable on her hindlegs with enough sedative in her to knock a carthorse flat, kind of horrific) that I thought we were doomed to woolly, overheating misery this winter. But even in this little thing, God spoke power and love.

She ate grass. I clipped. It took half an hour.

first attempt at a chaser clip – coulda been worse

All I ever did was let go.

And watched my star-holding, flame-eyed, blade-speaking King landing the punches straight and square on the jaws of my demons.

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

Gauteng Nooitie Show

Once again, I failed badly when it came to media. On the bright side, I finally have some photos from HOY – which I will share with you once I’ve decided which ones to actually purchase.

Either way, the show happened, and our horses totally rocked our socks.

After lots of predawn schooling and panicky last-minute test learning, Arwen and I came down the centerline at Elementary for the first time ever. I was tense as anything, but it became a dance between God and Arwen and I and when we halted after our last tense I was a little dizzy and could barely recall what actually happened. I remember we fluffed our simple changes, but I don’t remember scoring a couple of 8s and a bunch of 7s – which we nonetheless did for 63.8% in Elementary 4 and 67.6% in Elementary 5. I still don’t believe it.

Her working riding was a little dragonish but totally fearless and well-mannered. We were the only ones in the class, but I was really wishing there were some bums to kick because I think she would have kicked them.

She jumped a slightly crazed and very messy clear round in the 70cm to win it, followed by taking a pole in the 80cm. That was my bad. She was fearless and jumping effortlessly, but the judge had scolded me for our messy round while pinning our ribbon on for the 70cm and it messed with my head, so I started to pick at her and ask for lead changes at the wrong kind of moments. She took the pole when I was hanging on her face and after that I let her do her job and she jumped easily.

Midas did Prelim 3 and 4 with me in the irons and dazzled me greatly by scoring in the 65-66 zone. He was inattentive at moments and squeaked for his buddies a few times, particularly in the second test, but he happily did everything I asked and nailed a 7 for his super awesome little canter. We also got lots of comments on being accurate, which was lovely. Having the dressage arena probably pushed up every single mark by .5 or so. It’s also rather easy to ride into the corners on all 13.1 hands of Midas.

He also jumped his first round under a very skilled kid at 60cm, taking the spooky fences in his stride. Regrettably he ran out of the second element of the one-stride – poor chap is still trying to figure out how to get his teeny legs to fit one in a horse one – but he came back to jump it great and finished strong. He was also dead safe for the kid.

Renè and Sunè did pairs together; it was a bit of a mess and K and I couldn’t stop giggling but it was fun and we were alone in the class so we got pretty satin out of it. Renè wasn’t having the best day but still managed to do everything she was asked in a safe, calm manner for fourth in hand and working riding.

Sunè competed under a kid for the first time and did great, most unsurprisingly. The little kiddo wouldn’t quit kicking her so our show riding was a little more fast-paced than desired (especially by huffing, puffing, sprinting me), but he looked super up there and remembered his test perfectly. The working riding was even better. I rode her in working riding too, and I think she would have won it except she wiggled a bit as we stepped onto the mat and knocked a flowerpot over so that wasn’t too good. Everything else was foot perfect.

It was a super fun, low-key little show and perfect for wrapping up our showing season until Spring Show. For the next five months, it’s dressage, showjumping and SANESA galore – and we’re ready for it. Facing our giants and honouring our God.

Glory to the King.

Mist on the River

An old farmer around here used to say that once there was mist on the river, the frost would come in seven weeks or less. In seventeen years, he hasn’t been wrong.

Sunmer draws to a close, promising the end of midge season – and therefore AHS season – and summer coats, and boxing horses in daylight for shows.

It also means cosmos season, and that means outrides. Summer never goes out without a fight; it always puts on a last defiance in white and purple. It’s the best time for hacking.

Arwen was so quiet today I was kind of worried, except she would not stop eating the whole time. Arwie LOVES cosmos flowers. She didn’t bat an eye at anything and was a total pleasure.

ain’t no double bridle gonna stop Arwie eating flowers

We rode in between the fields of ripening maize,


in and out of the weird hole with the epic banks,

and through the field of gently waving hay, almost ready for its first cutting.

We even got to see a pair of rooibok… cows? Ewes? Lady rooibokke, anyway.

The horses were wonderful and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. We kept it pretty slow for the little kid’s sake (and mine), but they were all super. Vastrap was hot of course but never bad. Renè, Lulu and Dusty were perfect.

In other news, we’ve had a peaceful week so far with today being a public holiday. We got a bunch of riding done yesterday between K and I, so today is a little slow. Jamaica’s flatwork has shown an improvement again. Arwen ran through Elementary 4 – one of the tests she’s riding on Friday – without apparent effort. Sunè popped through a little working riding test, including straw bales (the only thing that’s ever given her pause in a working riding class), in fine form.

Thunder is now very relaxed in the dressage arena and even packed K over a fence with straw bales under it at 80cm without apparent difficulty.


Midas and Lancelot were introduced to our new jumping stuff. We got ourselves a white plank, which will shortly be a white plank with Scripture painted on, and a picket fence. Lancelot was TERRIFIED at first, Midas couldn’t really care less and both boys jumped great in the end. Midas has been pretty point-and-shoot – he’ll jump the first time, every time.

investigating fully

Eagle and Destiny both got visits from their respective parents, and both pleasantly surprised me. Eagle is a good guy but he can be rather on the sensitive side so tactless handling sets him off like a firework. I coached his mom through lunging and he actually did fantastic – didn’t get in a flap at all if she made a mistake or two. She cottoned on really quickly, too, and by the end of the session they looked quite harmonious.

He’s still a little flinchy about flappy stirrups and having me jump up and down next to him, though. Definitely not ready to sit on just yet.

Destiny has been driving me up the walls by protesting that the dressage arena is Scary and therefore he can ignore all my aids. We had some arguments for the past two weeks, but yesterday it all came together and he gave me two circles of canter each way in the “safe” end of the arena. And today his mom rode him for the first time. He gave her three gaits without batting an eye. I think he feels a lot more resistant than he looks – because he looked fantastic.

Little Trooper also had a breakthrough; we seem to have effectively eliminated the napping. He’s still not the most forward-going chap but consistently gives me walk/trot/canter on the lunge. The canter still needs building, but the balance is there, just not much strength yet. So we moved on to introducing the bridle. I think his rescuer must have done this already because when I put it on his reaction was this:

Yeah. He’s not bothered.

The rest of the week will be consumed by preparing for Nationals on Friday. It feels like quite the doddle compared to HOY, so let’s see how it goes. Always in God’s Hands.

Glory to the King.

Photo Dump Update

It’s been a long week.

But a productive one, with things heading towards normal and settled as new working student L settles admirably into her role and we get used to operations being moved to the dressage.

Lady Erin will be weaned in the beginning of April. She’ll be a bit young at five months, but poor Milady has been struggling ever since she got strangles when Lady E was only five days old, so her body really needs a chance to recovered. Plopsie (she doesn’t quite fit into her real name yet) will be OK, but I’ve started her on balancer just to help. She is delighted to finally get food like the big horsies.

Faith and I started to talk about hosepipes and being bathed. She likes to walk in circles, but hasn’t been pushy or freaked out. Her beautiful flowy mane has been washed and conditioned with minimal drama and I did get to hose her whole body today.

Mom’s dog has a funny foot but she keeps smilin’.

The little kid that had the very bad nerves has graduated to riding around the dressage arena, a huge step. The usually ever-patient Lulu did attempt to take a chunk out of me while I was having him trot on lead, which I take to be a cue to hurry up and get him posting already.

Magic still doesn’t tie up with any degree of predictability, but he ground ties every time. It’s adorable. He’s over his nerves about the dressage arena and we’ve had a blast this week fooling around with poles.

Eagle is lunging well in three gaits with a saddle and bridle, no drama. He is such a willing and sensitive chap. I can’t wait for his owner to visit this weekend.

Exavior ran me over while I was trying to lunge him on Monday, but he hasn’t reared under the Mutterer all week. I’m thoroughly enjoying the whole owner thing. I get to watch my gorgeous horse trot around majestically, and all I have to do is play with him in a relatively safe manner.

Lullaby models a new bridle. Her head is just too pretty.

Sunè and working student K have started giving beginner lessons. Both are doing really really great and have exciting futures ahead of them.

Renè remains K’s heartthrob, for obvious reasons.

After working in the school for a year, Thunder has gotten bored out of his skull and started spooking just for something to do. With his half lease gone, I’ve sort of taken him back for a bit. He’s actually such a dream to ride and has become so strong over the past year that I’m really enjoying him. Maybe we’ll have some dressage shows to go to.

In an attempt to get Magic to hack out, we’ve started going walkies. He is currently the showjumper who won’t go to shows turned happy hack that doesn’t go on hacks, but maybe with enough walks he’ll eventually be good to hack. Or maybe not. I don’t know, but we both enjoy hanging out and walking around eating grass (him, not me), so it’s cool either way.

Lady Erin is learning to walk on a lead like a big horsie. Today was our first session without any tantrums, and we’ve made good progress. Although it did take me five minutes of shouting and shoving to convince the creature to get up from her nap so that we could get started. (It’s fairly bombproof).

Here’s a flowerpot full of kittens, because why not?

We also set up a very challenging, but equally fun, gymnastic exercise for the week. Four one-strides in a row, it’s all about tightening knees and quickening reflexes. Here’s video of Vastrap and his kid popping through in fine style.

In other news, we’re preparing for Nooitie Nationals next weekend. Everyone is pretty ready, it’s just that Arwie has a bit of a cold. Nothing serious, so we’ll just wait and see.

It’s a beautiful thing to be right where God put you. Glory to the King.

SANESA Q1


This past weekend was our first go at SANESA as a yard. I coached a teenager through it last year, but she keeps her horse at home and knows what she’s doing, so this was a whole other kettle of fish – and I was riding two sale ponies myself. So it was a little hectic.

Regrettably, I also have practically no pictures, so I’ll keep it short.

Vastrap and his kid were fabulous in the 60cm showjumping, their first jumping show since his kid’s injury last year. VT was his superb self for a pole in the first class and a very poised 5th in the second. Since I threatened his kid with no-stirrups until she was 80 unless she kept it quiet and controlled, I am happy. We can now move on to adding some speed.

better than you and they both know it

Liana and her kid did not fare quite so well in the 50cm jumping. Ana herself was super, not having a single run-out all day, but they got a bit lost during the first class and then went beautifully in the second until the turn to the last fence, when the kid thought the pony would turn a bit sharper than she did and they parted ways. No harm was done (despite the best efforts of some less well-trained medics – I’m not the biggest fan of the venue where they had this qualifier), but it was a pity because I think they could have won it.

Zorro and Z-kid had their ups and downs. Zorro decided to be afraid of straw bales, the only thing that differentiated the working hunter course from the showjumping course, and got himself eliminated. They came back strong for a third in the jumping despite his napping towards the gate. These two will be a force to be reckoned with once Zorro pulls up his socks and behaves.

Outside lesson kid from last year on her fantastic mare Pennie had an unpromising start in the working hunter when Pennie threw in a stop; she had another stop and a pole in her first jumping class, but then got a hiding and started to make better life choices. Pennie jumped fabulously the second jumping class for an unlucky pole in the jump-off that landed them 4th, and then went on to win the equitation in fine style.

when this retires I’m stealing it for a broodmare

Working student K and Renè were fantastic despite poor K having the sniffles. They won both classes (performance riding and working riding) and Renè was her usual admirable self.

Sunè was also muchly admirable and won her working riding with a score of 81. This pony is amazing.

Sadly I didn’t make it to my performance riding because I was coaching. Or not sadly. I’ve had it to the eyeballs with show riding for this month, thanks. Midas still had dressage and showjumping to do so we were still busy. His dressage felt really good – he was shouting a bit but relaxed as long as he was moving, and had really great moments. I have no idea what we scored (see above re: not my favourite venue), but I liked how it felt.

His showjumping was great. I have a penchant for entering POG or 40cm for a pony’s first jumping class for the simple reason that I can make them walk over it if they stop, but something possessed me to do the 60cm on this chap and he didn’t bat an eye. I overrode every fence mightily and he jumped them all with enthusiasm and a slightly injured air (like, geez lady, I’m jumping, relaxed). He had a green pole in each class, but I’m perfectly happy.

He also rode in a two-berth for the first time when we hitched a lift with the Z-kid’s family, and I kinda want to say he didn’t load well, but basically what happened was he stopped at the ramp and a ten-year-old girl went behind him and slapped him on the bum and he went in, so I don’t think that qualifies.

A busy show but our God went before us. Glory to the King.

Sunrise to Sunset

One perk of long hours and changing seasons is that I get to see the sky changing every morning and evening.

I suppose the sweeping expanse of colour should leave me feeling diminutive. Futile. A dirty, scrabbling little thing cowering on the face of a mighty universe. That’s all I am, after all. But here’s the beauty of the Gospel: the sunrise and sunset make me feel special. I almost blush watching it; it’s like a bunch of favourite flowers unexpectedly sent from my Lover.

I feel like He paints the sky for me. In a way I guess He does: the same way as Jesus died for me. For me in the most intensely personal way, and for all of us in the most magnificently all-embracing and equal way.

The space between this sunrise and sunset was pretty chock full. New junior groom L was kept on her toes, poor girl, but performed admirably. I got the day off to a good start by jumping a full course at 75cm on Jamaica, the easiest fence set to 80cm. I got off twice to check I’d actually set it to 80 because it felt small. Jamaica jumped brilliantly; I held him for a close spot and took the pole in the first attempt, but the second time he went clear and on the correct leads, if getting a couple of dodgy distances (my fault).

Arwen also schooled in the dressage for the first time. It was amazing. I really got to play around and try random stuff without worrying about hills or other horses, and we had a brilliant session. I was pleasantly surprised that she was easily able to complete a leg-yield down the log diagonal. We also did approximately three million simple walk changes. My canter-walk transitions aren’t any good at the best of times, but I struggled at first today until I started to use my brain for a change and squish her canter up to a super-collected little bounce before asking. I was so flabbergasted that she gave me a true, active collected canter, followed by a perfect canter-walk, that we called it a day immediately.

don’t let her fool you. She breaks out on a regular basis

Thunder was kind of an idiot today. He’s spooky and anxious in the new arena and went so far as to bolt a few steps until I caught him, so he’s being grounded from riding school work for at least a month while I sort him out. In his good moments he’s feeling super.

Sunè took a fairly new rider for a w/t/c and behaved brilliantly. I hopped on afterward and ran through our performance riding test for Saturday. She’s getting the leads better, but connection is still a bit of a sticking point.

Icey hates me for making him get up so early

Destiny is back to work after having had the snot kicked out of him by Starlight, and gave me a really super session including his first canter. Once I did get him to canter he went off so happily and freely forward that I panicked and thought my brakes had left, applying them sharply. He stopped so obediently he nearly catapulted me over his head. Apparently the delinquent can change his spots.

Eagle wore his first bridle, seeing that his lunging is now quite firmly established in three gaits, minus some anxious moments in walk.

Trooper is slowly improving. I get the impression he’s still kind of immature and needs a little time. I’ll give him another two weeks and see if he perks up about the whole work idea, but if not, I’ll just establish his lunging and give him a month to grow up and settle in some more. He is perfectly delighted to hang out with me – it’s the running about that he objects to.

We finished off with a slew of lessons. I’m particularly proud of Zorro and Z-kid -he’s come a long way from his trademark giraffe look.

and so shiny!

Liana also jumped a clear round at 50cm with her kid, a huge relief in light of her recent jumping trouble. I’ll school her tomorrow too, but she’s pretty ready for Saturday.

Long past sunset now – so bed. Glory to the King.