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.

20m x 60m = wonderful

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!

just look at it

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?

light speed trotting feat. fancy new poll relief bridle

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.

majestic moo

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.

working students being supervised by Ice doggy

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.

Glory to the King.

where miracles happen

Back Home

This week has been a little wild. I’ll recap in pictures, because forming a coherent post is a little much to ask right now. (Writers all say that writing something badly is better than writing nothing at all, right?)

We are currently without a head groom; it’s junior groom T and I for it, with Mom helping us out with the cow guys, which has saved our bacon.

I love the show horses, but it was sooooo good to be home and leaning against Mr. Failed Showjumper again. This horse. ❤ Thanks Lord.

Eagle came into work for the first time. He is as expected; sensitive, but willing. A joy if you’re tactful; a danger if you’re not. He’s cottoned on to the basic voice commands but still kind of anxious about staying in walk.

Magic began his return to work with a lunging session, which was a good thing because he spent it leaping about spooking at stuff that’s been there for ever. Seriously, bro?

Trooper also started work this week and is also as expected – dead lazy. The thing about horses that are unresponsive to spooky things is that they’re generally unresponsive to aids, too. I’m going to tweak his diet and see if I can fizz him up a bit. Otherwise he is adorable and follows the kids around everywhere.

Magic developed an allergic reaction to not getting enough attention last week. I gave him cortisone which did not help at all. It’s bugging me more than it’s bugging him, and is gradually going away, so I’m not panicking. Yet.

Exavior has been a total sweetie to work with and lunge. I finally enjoy hanging out with the dude again, mostly because I don’t have to deal with his bad side. The poor Mutterer does, however, and on Tuesday the dude reared so high that even the Mutterer looked momentarily concerned.

On the plus side, those sabino splashies on his tummy are still too cute for words.

Sunè did lots of hacking, even past the woods, which are usually quite scary. She’s been a superstar. Coolest little horse, this. She’s going to be real dependable.

Faith is now super easy to lead, tie up, and groom, including picking out the feet. She still has her fairylike, gossamer prettiness, but I do wish some of the expensive food I shove into her would start to go sideways instead of just up and along.

The dressage arena is rideable at last!! I’m so, so happy. Thanks Lord! It is an inexpressible pleasure to have that beautiful, flat surface free of obstacles and distractions to school on. There’s even a fence. No more baby horses running to Timbuktu when spooked! I spent yesterday morning riding the schoolies in it, so hopefully today I can teach most of my lessons up here too. Its proximity to the tack room and loo is also a definite advantage.

For the first time in her life, the champ herself is being stabled long-term. I’m trying to keep the coat short for Nationals (Arwen + body clip = disaster – she can’t have her legs done without sedation, and last time we gave her enough to geld a Clydesdale colt and she still went across the stable on her hindlegs with the Murderer hanging from her head). I also think, given how many overnight shows she has to do lately, that having a routine of sleeping in at night will make her happier at shows. Plus then I can limit her hay intake a little without separating her from her buddies. Maybe then we can finally shake some of the chubbles… or she’ll just eat some dirt and get even chubbier.

It’s good to be back. Onwards and upwards. Glory to the King.

Valentines and Big Horses

Yesterday I didn’t even realise what day it was until I discovered that, despite being as single as they come, I have a Valentine.

He is all of seven years old, but he brought me chocolate. Thus, he wins.

On a more serious note, I was back at Winstead facing my demons. I really love being there, but I’ll be honest – I stood on the mounting block just staring at my steed for the day with a feeling of absolute helplessness for a few seconds. But I laid it down, and God came through for me. With the help of the wonderful Monty who is like a smaller version of Al who likes close spots (like me). We had a fantastic lesson and jumped all the things with only one panicky recitation of Psalm 23.

And just as I thought I was getting used to riding big horses, coach K put me on a creature that dwarfed the mere 16.2hh beasts I had been riding. Royale is the most incredible fancy comfy upper-level jumper thing, and I had a blast, but wow. He is big.

I also got to ride Kardinal again and he got to show me how to do good canter-walk transitions approximately four million times, poor chap.

me in jail ~ Royale

The day ended after some lovely lessons with an absolutely splendid sky to take our breath away.

Today did not start off on as good a note when poor old Mutterer and head groom T ran out of fuel on the way here. We fed really late, but on the plus side I got a pretty picture of a view that I’ve seen so many times and never been able to photograph because I’m always driving.

Once I finally got to start the riding, Arwen gave me the opportunity to unwind a bit by taking me for a stunning hack across the fields. She dragoned a bit and got quite hot and bouncy, but didn’t buck or go nuts.

Destiny went beautifully today. He is firmly under saddle now and hasn’t been at all naughty, although he felt resistant today when I pushed for a more active walk. He gave me a happy little trot, though.

Tara also schooled well; so chilled and rhythmic, but her turn right button occasionally seems to glitch. She’s not naughty, just keeps merrily going straight while you would really rather turn right. We had improvement by the end.

I schooled Jamaica over a 75cm vertical, the biggest I’ve jumped him, with a ground line set the height of the fence away from the base. Neither Maica nor I are any good at seeing a distance and this exercise really helped. He also seemed impressed by the fence and didn’t take a single pole.

I rode the same exercise on Starlight, just rather smaller. She has improved hugely under her mom’s schooling and has such a powerful little jump.

Faithy and I went walkies, to her delight. Faithy adores walkies and pulls all the way out and all the way back. She’s spooky but super curious, and in her world, separation anxiety ain’t no thing.

Midas, Sunè and Lancelot all had flatwork this afternoon and all did great. Midey feels so ready for HOY I can taste it. Sunè’s left turn doesn’t always happen gracefully in canter, but at least she’s got leads and connection now. And Lancey learns slowly (not for lack of intelligence, but for lack of attention), but he grasped lengthening his canter beautifully today.

And now, bed. Glory to the King.

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

To the great disappointment of kids and grownups alike, the SANESA qualifier was postponed due to the arenas being too wet (no comment…). God has a plan with that, but that’s why my updates are everyday today.

Friday was a mad rush to get everything exercised and packed, but it did mean some fun hacking. Sunè impressed me by leading a hack with a kid in a super composed and happy manner,

happy bay ears

and Arwen and working student K babysat Lancelot so well that he had a much better hack this time and didn’t spook at all, though he was obviously tense at first.

good Narwie, worried Lancey

Speaking of K, she did the honours of being the first person who isn’t me to ride Tara. Tara performed admirably, giving K three steady gaits in the big arena without a drop of trouble.

There was much fooling around in lessons, and Thunder got back into the program with beginners and did great. We don’t have as many adults without their own horsies now, so he’s been a bit underworked.

photobomb by Starlight

Today started off on a cool note when I went to pick up head groom T and almost ran over an eland. For those who aren’t familiar with eland, they’re basically giant majestic jump goats. For real – the biggest antelope on the planet, they can clear 2.00m, and have a bascule that no giant goat should be able to have.

blurry majestic goat

Today was Exavior’s lunging day. Teeth being done, he’s back in the bridle and doing fine. The Mutterer rode him twice last week and he did rear and go nuts at first, but improved considerably in the end.

all the bling!

Lancelot was jumping today; just a single 60cm vertical from a canter, over and over and over again. The poor chap just keeps coming in at a dodgy distance. He does understand that his job to arrive at the fence, go over the fence, and then continue without changing speed, which is good. It just isn’t always graceful (and the pole doesn’t always stay up).

SO THAAARSTY

A storm rolled in around lunchtime, which cut short my Magic time (awww) and watered the earth and gave us a much-needed respite from the heat (yaaay).

It cleared in time for me to ride Liana. Ana has been rather cheeky to her kid lately. Nothing nasty, but running out at fences often. She needs a few weeks under me and then she should be shipshape again. Kid ponies very quickly realise that being nice to their kid means that mean old me doesn’t get on them and make them do hard things.

I super enjoyed riding her again. I haven’t sat on her since July and I’d forgotten how much fun she is.

Even in tough and tiring times, there’s so much love at God’s own stableyard. Glory to the King.

In Which Chaos Breaks Loose

This week was looking hectic, but doable. Sure, we were minus head groom T for the week, but we had our junior groom. Sure, we had seven horses to prepare for SANESA, but we at least had two boxes to take them in.

And then both junior groom and extra box promptly broke down.

The week immediately began to look completely un-doable, so, utterly overwhelmed, I laid it down to God. He promptly fixed our groom situation (enter yard rat K and her mom), and as a bonus made our horses go really well today. Even Sunè and Liana, who were struggling somewhat prior to this.

Amidst all this, I sat on Destiny. He was super. I am relieved. His thrilled owner diligently documented the occasion, which was very cool. I seldom have media of training horses being started so it was great to see.

good brat

Poor Arwen has been a little neglected, but we did jump a course of 80-85cm without dying, so that was awesome. She is a bit chicken of getting a bad distance at that height and throws in a stop rather than fluffing the jump (like a safe little xc pony) but was convinced otherwise.

Magic has been happily fooling around. We free jump most weeks now, because even if I don’t really want to ride him over anything bigger than 50cm right now, I still like looking at that fabulous jump of his.

As mentioned, Sunè hadn’t been going too great. I felt pressurised by the upcoming show and didn’t take as much time on the simple trot changes as I should have, whereupon she got defensive, sticky and argumentative. She’s utterly nonviolent, but can be stubborn. We worked through it, though, and I’m looking forward to a first show on this fun little mare.

so fat now!

Jamaica is jumping full courses at 60cm now. He rides like a dull schoolie sometimes – really quiet over fences, but quite uneducated about where to jump and lazy with his legs. He willingly took every fence but most of the distances were quite poor and rhythm nonexistent. I foresee much schooling at 70cm before we move up.

Lancelot and his kid (the Z-kid) have been lessoning again between schooling sessions and doing great. He’s got such a happy workaday attitude to jumping now. He’s obviously still green, but has a natural eye and jumps well when left to do his thing. He does tend to take poles with his hindlegs though.

The pintos have been super. Zara is reminding me a lot of her dam, Amidala. She’s a higher quality copy, but her go-to naughty thing is to become completely unresponsive. She’s not violent, but there is currently much pulling and flapping. At least this now takes place in the big arena.

Tara is fantastic. I knew her dam, too, a cute old TB mare named Pumpkin who was a great schoolie. She’s dependable, trainable and comfortable and we’ve got three reliable gaits going in the big arena.

Friesian + TB = Shetland pony mane apparently

Midas has been making my day reliably. He jumped his first full course at 40cm with a very businesslike air, and also had his first ride with a kid on board. The kid rides great, he went great, I am happy.

I hacked Starlight for her mom. Starlight doesn’t like me, but we’ve come to a kind of begrudging truce.

that look they give me when they’re tacked up but I arrive instead of mom

I bought another pony to bring on. Call me crazy if you like. He’s ultra cute and irresistible and I’m way overexcited. He hasn’t come yet, but I’ve met him and you could probably set up a jumping castle beside him and he’d just sigh.

it’s only fly spray

Aslan is on the move… glory to the King.

Wet.

Monday it rained all day and all night long in a steady, quiet deluge that soaked right down into the earth. After a day’s sunshine, we’ll be able to hear the grass growing. The fields were thrilled. The lunge ring, not so much. Even the grass arena, which is usually OK, was a mud bath.

So this week became the Week of Hacking. And with our beautiful Highveld in full summer splendour, I’m not complaining too loudly.

“my office”

Midas and Sunè deserved an easy week anyway, so I’ve only taken the two of them for hacks. Sunè has hacked before under head groom T, so it was no surprise when she was totally unbothered by anything. This appears to be Sunè’s MO.

Midas was very bold and excited to be on a new adventure until the big Holstein heifers all came galloping over to see what he was. This was apparently terrifying, although I can’t blame him seeing how they’re bigger than him. To his credit he didn’t get out from under me or rear, but he was cantering on the spot in abject horror. Poor little chap. He dealt well with birds, dogs running in the grass and tall brush – just not cows, please.

did I mention it was pouring rain?

Jamaica has actually been working hard this week, particularly on jumping. His flatwork is finally solid enough that we can really get over fences again, and he was being good but careless in front, so we built him a gymnastic line. He nearly fell on his face once, but this motivated him to start picking up his knees and he was jumping really nicely in the end.

Lancelot got to jump the same gymnastic, which has been excellent for his confidence. He is very careful but not yet confident cantering fences because he doesn’t know where to jump yet, but the gymnastic showed him where to put his feet and he was so good we picked the fences up to about 60cm and he didn’t bat an eye. Even with Z-kid aboard!

Tara has been great this week, too. She doesn’t have a violent bone in her body. We’ve moved on to working in the big arena in walk and trot, adding a few steps of canter where we can.

awww pretty T ❤

Zara was a little lame with a hoof abscess, but goes sound again now so I got back on board. I don’t think I long-lined her and Tara enough, and I’m regretting it now. Their mouths aren’t exactly hard, but responsiveness is being harder to get. It is improving though. We had walk and trot in the big arena as well, with minimal drama.

Destiny progressed to the long lines and had one enormous violent tantrum before he remembered it doesn’t work on me and then decided to use his powers for good. He’s got a nice enough mouth when he listens, so I look forward to steady progress now that the worst of the resistance is past us.

post-tantrum sheepish obedience

We also had a tremendous breakthrough with dear Nugget this week. It didn’t start out well when she decided to try and take a chunk out of my arm, whereupon almost by reflex I gave her one across the nose. I regretted it instantly, but as it turns out it was really not a bad thing. She instantly realised that I would not be walked all over but that I also wasn’t going to actually hurt her, and since then we’ve made huge progress. I have to feed her from my hand and go slowly, but I can catch her every morning and gently groom her main body and mane. And I managed to get her out of that ghastly old green halter and into something pink and cheerful.

There is light in her eye again. She’s not going to give up on trying to find joy again, and neither am I. I get the feeling God’s got a high calling for this broken little horse if she’d only be brave.

also wins at the evil mare face

Exavior had his teeth done, for which he was quite a jerk but not malicious. We managed to remove the wolf tooth that had been causing so much drama and it’s so small you can barely even see it.

stretch li’l human stretch
The tooth is the teeny brown thing, the little speck you can hardly see. The rest of it is gum tissue that came out with it because he was plunging around like an idiot. Don’t plunge around for your teeth, idiot.

The Mutterer will start to ride Xave for me next week, so I’ve just been lunging him. He’s angelic on the ground again, so God willing, soon I’ll be back on board that big, beautiful jerk of a horse.

God’s got this. Glory to the King.