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.
So what’s the most logical thing to do when you wake up really sore one morning? Head off to Springs to ride some really huge horses, of course.
With Module 4 and its “jump 85cm on a giant horse you don’t know” threat looming, I packed myself off to go get lessons from jump coach K. She promptly put me on literally the biggest horse I’ve even seen in like a year. I quailed, but he was a school horse so I climbed all the way up and off we went for such a productive ride. Kids, buy yourselves schoolmasters. This thing just jumped whatever he was pointed at, even if the pointing was done badly, in this steady ploppy rhythm that just got the job done so smoothly. I almost instantly forgot that he was huge and enjoyed the sensation of not having to micromanage.
Then I got to ride a super fancy ex-international eventer. I was scared I might break him, but instead he patiently humoured me while I delightedly pressed all his buttons. (Flying changes. Shoulder in. You guys. SO MANY BUTTONS.)
Back home today, I was greeted with the consequences of pushing off to Springs for a morning – catching up on the sessions I’d missed. This meant twelve horses on my list today, which made my back hurt just to think about. But on the plus side I had the rare and deeply satisfying opportunity to ride every last one of my full-time training horses in one day.
Ten of them were excellent. We kicked off the day on a wonderful note with Exavior being just awesome. I only lunged him very briefly and he was forward but sane to ride. He did kick out in protest at my dressage whip once but neither my seat nor my confidence wobbled so we ended on the very high note of taking two (truly appalling) canter steps. We’re confined to the ring until his wolf teeth get taken out, but we’re sure making progress!
Then Arwen rode an excellent flatwork session, nailing her simple changes even on the long sides and offering some nice shoulder-in of her own, not to be outdone by no giant fancy international horse.
Tara followed it up with being so relaxed and confident that we established a really nice forward trot including responsive, relaxed transitions. Her anxiety has been put behind her, it would seem. Unfortunately Zara now seems to be in the anxious, stuck-behind-the-leg stage but with quietness she’ll figure it out in a couple of weeks.
Destiny managed to only nap violently once today, and gave me three gaits nicely lunging left and three gaits begrudgingly lunging right. We’re finally back in the right direction. Sunè has also made up her mind to use her powers for good; after a dreadful session on Monday she stepped up to the plate and did great in walk and trot, large and figures, in the big arena today. The canter isn’t there yet, but it’ll come.
Faithy has discovered that I have food. This momentuous revelation means that she now comes over to be caught and fussed over, although our training sessions mostly consist of me combing her (AMAZING) hair and cooing about how awesome she is.
Then Magic and Lancelot just had to throw a spanner in the works. Lancey was plain not in the mood and decided to nap, resulting in a battle of wills; we’ll have to kiss and make up tomorrow. Magic wasn’t exactly bad but he was full of beans and jittery, which was hard to stay calm on. We popped a few fences and called it quits without picking a fight or having a meltdown, so I’m calling it a win anyway.
Midas succeeded in scraping the day off the floor and ending on a lovely note by jumping absolutely everything I aimed him at with poise and enthusiasm. This was only a tiny cross and a 30cm upright, but for his second jumping session ever, I’ll totally take it.
Crazy day, but God was with every breath. Glory to the King.
Despite my misgivings about the former after her spectacularly reluctant first session, both Zara and Tara have been progressing beautifully. After Zara ran through the side of the lunge ring twice – with me flapping helplessly along behind her on the end of the lunging rein – I groused that this creature must be both unwilling and stupid, but as usual I was wrong and have been forced to eat my words lately.
She always had this blank look in her eye during her sessions, but soon I started to realise that it wasn’t because she didn’t have a brain – it was because the brain was not with me. What exactly she was so inwardly focused on, nobody knows. There are no physical issues. Maybe she was just never asked to actually think before. Whatever it was, as we went on, I started to get moments where the light would come on and she would focus and be truly brilliant for thirty seconds or until she made a mistake and had to be corrected and went all blank again. The blankness was maddening. Training was, well, training; there was no conversation.
These days, though, my “stupid” student has become a responsive, willing, and present partner who actually talks to me and processes information – quickly, too. She’s turned out to be sensitive, forward, alert and just a little quirky so instead of her being just another dumb baby we have developed quite the rapport. Just goes to show how some horses never show who they really are until you bother to ask.
So we have progressed from trashing my lunge ring to carting my butt quite happily around it, so far just in walk, but I look forward to rapid progress. For her owner’s sake I hope she sells like a hot cake and will do my utmost to make it happen, but on the selfish side I do hope I get to show her once or twice first.
Tara has always been her sweet, cuddly, obedient self so of course backing her has just been easy; nothing remedial to fix, no bad habits to change, no mindset to try and alter. Just a simple matter of training responses and getting used to tack. I was on her in short order and we have also been taking a few little steps around the ring.
Tara is kind of worried lately; I don’t think she thinks she’s going to be hurt or frightened, but she does look a little stressy about new things or things she finds hard. It would be totally in keeping with her nature for her to be a bit overly worried about making a mistake. I think I need to have an even lighter hand and encourage her a little more and it should be OK. Then again maybe she’ll take advantage and throw me clean over the side of the ring; I suppose one never really knows with horses. Although Tara is highly unlikely to attempt such a drama.
Also, I officially adore Capstone feeds from now on. When T arrived she was a 2/10 and 14.3hh. Five months later she is a 5/10 and touching on 15.2.
Much as I also enjoy her, I kinda hope T sells like a hot cake too because she will thrive with a nice, patient adult ammy that is quite content to take their time and just relax and enjoy the connection. I do my best for her but regrettably one can’t just fool around so much when there is a client involved. It’s just unfair. But Tara is going to make an ammy very very happy – and vice versa.
Given how sporadic my updates have been recently, I thought it’d be a good idea to give a brief recap on everybody in my crew. I think I have fifteen horses in for schooling at the moment, which keeps life interesting and leaves one good and sore at the end of the day, but I thank God for them all. ❤
Obviously, there’s the usual five-days-a-week lineup – Arwen, Magic, Nell and Exavior. Then I’m on the three schoolies once a week to keep everything tuned up: Thunder, Stardust and Lullaby.
There are a couple of other horses that I school once a week for various reasons. The first is the ever-annoying Zorro, who irritates me because he doesn’t like me even though I feed him. He likes his child, he will be nice to his child, and that is that. I can’t fault the dude’s loyalty but he and I have had a few, uh, discussions about not bucking and running out just because I’m not his child. Zorro’s child competes on him so he’s fairly finished, he just needs to go over some basics again (like CONNECTION and RHYTHM because apparently dressage is a Firn thing and not a child thing, viz., evil).
The other is Jamaica, a little Appy crossbred gelding, who is made very attractive by his cute curves and black spots. He is a bit of a brat and needs a lead mare to put a back hoof in him once or twice, but otherwise he is a friendly puppy dog. He infamously jumped a fence and broke his scapula right after arriving at the yard (he was one of my first liveries, so that was especially fun) so I’m just kind of here to feel any unevenness before I see it. He also has a child and is occasionally well behaved with her.
Now for everyone who is in “full” training – three days a week. Some of them have already made an appearance on the blog, being Olive, Quinni and Midas. Olive and Quinni are both well beyond starters now; Quinni has 3 gaits and all her buttons installed, and is nearly ready to start jumping and connecting and fanciness. Olive should be going to her new home shortly. I’ll miss the floof, but I’ll admit to some relief. She isn’t thriving in my program mostly because Olive was born for somebody to enjoy at a relaxed pace, not for a harassed, paid person to attempt to make progress on. Nonetheless she has achieved significant progress and now actually knows that kicking = faster and will even consent to trot slowly when begged.
I also got on Midas about two weeks ago and he’s coming along famously, doing his walk and just starting to trot. He is a rather forward-going fellow and I have reservations about my ideal of selling him as a lead rein pony, but I enjoy him hugely. I may be able to tie my ankles in a knot under his tummy but he doesn’t appear too bothered and carries me forward happily with his cute little short strides.
Two new starters complete the motley crew: Zara and Tara. These two pinto girls come from the same farm and the same year, so forgive me if I refer to them as sisters despite having no blood relation. Both in for training and selling, they only came into work two weeks ago now so we’re still working on fairly basic stuff. Tara has been here since June, but was desperately underweight and only two and a half anyway so she was pretty much in a field just learning very basic groundwork (boxing, bathing, and basic lunging) until now. In the past two weeks we refined the lunging and added a bridle and roller, which she both accepted without a problem. I rather like her – she’s still in the ugly duckling stage but she’s willing, hardworking and cute as a button. I admit that the buckskin spots really do it for me and I don’t even like pinto.
Zara is something else. She has quite the movement on her, but it’s like she’s just not connecting with us. She started her first session in fine style by crashing through the side of the lunging ring, twice, with all 48kg of me flapping helplessly behind her on the end of the lunge line. Things have mercifully improved from there; she’s still not quite decided to be present and try for me yet, but on the positive side she is really quiet and levelheaded, not at all the hot-blooded sport horse I was expecting. She took bridle, roller, and horsebox without a qualm. There’s a cool horse in there somewhere, I just need to find her and drag her out to the light.
And lastly, there is the yard favourite – Lancelot. With the SI soreness that started to rear its head in February, he really didn’t work much this year. I sat on him in the middle of February and then he only did very light lunging until about the middle of May. We restarted him then and put in his three basic gaits, but after only about two months of solid work he became sour and grumpy to handle, very uncharacteristic for happy-go-lucky Lancey. It was before he saw the chiro, but I think it has much more to do with the fact that he’s just a really late bloomer. There’s a two-year-old brain wandering happily about in a four-year-old body, and amiable and intelligent as he is, it cooks very quickly. So we gave him another eight weeks in July/August and brought him back sort of in the beginning of September. Since then, he’s gone from strength to strength. I’m still watching him closely for burnout symptoms, but we’re out in the big arena now doing three gaits and circles super nicely. On Monday we even introduced his first 30cm vertical and he was absolutely super to it. Nothing beats a good attitude, not even a good brain!
I still have one full training spot open, but I’m guarding it jealously because I already booked it for another resale project. After ENDLESS shopping (do you know how hard a tiny, quality Nooitie is to find? Really, really hard, that’s how hard) I picked out an adorable palomino mare from one of the big stud farms. She was completely wild when I saw her, so the owners very kindly offered to get her halter tamed for no extra charge, and as soon as that’s done we’ll get her home and whisk her into training. I can neither confirm nor deny that I am as excited as a nine-year-old getting her first pony ever.