Photo Dump Recap (again)

We’ve been clipping up a storm – of horsehair, flying about everywhere. (And I do mean everywhere – fellow clipping people will sympathise).

because it’s a schoolie and ain’t nobody gonna stop me

So far, Lulu, Zorro and Jamaica have stood dead still to clip. The clippers broke halfway through Jamaica so we had a whole rigmarole with that and his coat looks a bit disastrous now – but nothing that a week’s growth won’t fix. On the upside, by the end of it, he was grazing as I snipped away.

daddy fixed them

I’m hoping to maybe drive around and shave ponies for people and thus acquire some more funds, if the clippers continue to behave.


I jumped 90cm on Jamaica. The nerves have been a little up and down, but the overall tendency has been really quite good. Jamaica bails me out a lot. I entered him in the 80cm at SANESA next weekend because that’s what we seem to be coping at even on my bad days.

Magic lost his snot.

Magic found his snot.

Eagle went to the dressage arena and behaved brilliantly. He has the most incredible brain – that rare combination of quiet and willing, but intelligent and sensitive. I wish I could keep them all sometimes.


I can now ride horses that are taller than I am without even a twinge of worry (if they’re quiet). This is Buzz. Buzz is amazing.

Our views stay amazing.

We took lessons with dressage coach S: K and Renè, and me with my two beasties. It was invaluable. I nearly died. S really, really liked Thunny and got me properly excited about his future.

Eagle’s owner rode him for the first time. He was superb, but it got cut short when one of the stirrup leathers snapped mid-canter. I can’t believe it – it wasn’t even worn. Eagle’s mom took a tumble and left rather battered. Really unfortunate because it was going so well. God knows what He’s doing with this.

Exavior is gorgeous. I have to sell him. The family and I (and God and I) had a talk about that first, and we agreed that with things a little tight sometimes (as is normal, for any growing little yard), the funds that are going to his upkeep and training could be better used elsewhere. There are so many kids out there dying to ride but without the financial oomph to do it and that’s what we’re here for, not this. It’s not like I can ride him anyway, and he has too much future ahead of him to waste on a maybe.

It’s very sad. But it’s God’s plan, not mine, and this miracle horse has a lot more miracles in store for him. Just with somebody else.

Kissing this nose makes everything better, though.

So does catching two top-class Nooitie mares in one picture. They’re more alike than they’ll ever admit.

Join-up? Nope. Apples.

Trooper is doing super. We’ve got canter now, and on the correct lead, and circles (kinda). He’s got a bit of a nappy streak but it’s nothing my pink wand isn’t dealing with.

We took our big group of kiddies for a hack. Regrettably I didn’t get a picture of the cutest feature: a three-year-old bundle of cuteness seated upon Midas. Now that was adorable.

Arwie and I took a walk on the wild side – AKA the public road. Then we went inside and did four million shoulder-ins; coach S showed us how to do them properly and we’re not going to let them get us down again.

She doesn’t have Magic’s scope or Nell’s trot or Thunder’s presence, but she’s got the fire in the belly that lights mine when it flickers and she never lets me down. Ever.

I had the saddles fitted – the dressage to Arwen, the JC jumping to Jamaica, and the beloved K&M to Thunder. The perk is that the dressage is now super wide and fits everything, including Lancey, who has been doing his best flatwork yet. The jumping is good provided we do it in the dressage arena; he’s lost his nerve in the grass somehow. We entered for the 60cm at SANESA as a precaution but it’s not the height that’s the problem.


Whenever we hack, we’re accompanied by one to three happy Jack Russels. They’re the most incredible little dogs.

Our string of good hacks has grown to the point where I try to take a group every Saturday (except on competing weekends). This was a very beginner group so I walked, but I needn’t have bothered. My sister led the way on Stardust, and Sunè, Renè and Lullaby were perfect.

Ice has an adorable new jacket. It says “dog” in case I forget what he is.

There’s just something about a true black, isn’t there? I thank God for Eagle. I’ve reopened my training, so I don’t get to cherry-pick my training horses anymore. I certainly wouldn’t have picked him – big, sensitive, troubled, athletic. But God sent him here for a reason and he’s given me so much confidence. Thanks Lord.

Cute little brat is on the open market now; I’m so proud of him. He’s such a nice, quality pony and I’m happy to be presenting him to the public. Still, I’ll miss him when he goes. If he doesn’t, we’ve got dressage and jumping at SANESA too. (It’s going to be a little busy).

Lady Erin helps me groom the old queen. She can walk on the lead now, with intermittent use of the bum rope and elbow.

I’m shopping for a (cheap) new bridle for Thunny because all my bridles look like bits of thread on the anvil he calls his head. He’s being incredible – I’m excited for this weekend’s Prelim 2 and 3 on him. We’ve been working hard on that left bend and it’s paying off.

God is amazing. Glory to the King.

Q1 Goal Recap

We’ve put in lots of work – let’s see how it’s paying off.

Arwen

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  • Get points for Elementary Medium. One-fifth of the way there; we have 2 points and we need 10. Of course, it would help if we could score better than 59, which I know we can – and we did, at the Nooitie show – so here’s hoping the next show goes better. I know she can do it.
  • Don’t mess up a show riding/show hack class. We absolutely did this in the general breed show hack at HOY. While we didn’t get a ribbon, when they lined us up, we were just out of the placings in fifth out of a big strong class full of fancy things. She was foot perfect, and I am beyond chuffed.
  • Jump a graded 80cm round. I’m calling it done because while technically it wasn’t graded, it wasn’t training, either – she jumped the 80cm at the Gauteng Nooitie show with one rider-error pole down. Also cash is a short commodity right now, so coughing up more registration fees for showjumping isn’t gonna happen.
  • Do some cross-country lessons and/or go drag hunting. Still in the pipeline – we’ll get to this once the SANESA qualifiers have calmed  down a bit.

My brave little partner and I continue to put in the hours and the sweaty numnahs, and it continues to work because Arwen always gives back. Good dragon.

Exavior

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  • Continued improvement on injections. We actually haven’t had to poke many needles into the beast yet. In fact, it took me a second to remember that he had his flu shot in February, because it must have been super uneventful. Whoop! He even let the vet measure him, too, although he did try to bite the chiro (brat).
  • Show in-hand without rearing. We did this. Twice!! He did rear once, but that wasn’t in the show ring – he spooked at the stables, leapt forward, trampled my heel, got a massive hiding and reared in protest. Fair enough. He never even tried to rear, bite, chop, or kick anyone and I am very happy.
  • Hack. Even if it’s just to the big gate and back. Sigh. I haven’t even been on it since it tried to kill me in February. However, the Mutterer has been riding him and they did a mini-hack – from the small lunge ring to the dressage arena – without any drama.
  • By June, have 3 gaits. I admitted defeat long before June and palmed him off on the Mutterer in February. They’re still walking.
  • Around his fourth birthday, attend a few training shows at walk/trot and Prelim. If he can behave at home, I know he’s the same at shows as he is at home, so he’ll be OK. He just needs to start going somewhere now.
  • Ultimate goal: be solid at Prelim by the end of the year.

The groundwork goals are working out and he has become quite a  pleasure on the ground, really, so that’s my job. Now he and the Mutterer just have to hold up their end of the deal, and so far, it’s working. He’s quit rearing, anyway, so that’s good.

Midas

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  • Hack alone and in company. Half-done. He hacks alone nicely (although we’re still working on the cow phobia), so I don’t expect any trouble in company.
  • Be quiet at shows. Resounding check! He’s angelic in the stable and very sweet to ride, although he can still have the odd whinny, but it doesn’t escalate and decreases with every show. Vastrap’s kid rode him at the last one without any trouble.
  • Compete up to 70cm showjumping at training shows. He’s jumping 60cm without batting an eye and we’ll be doing higher fences later on. I know he can, I just don’t want to push those baby joints too hard right now. After SANESA season.
  • Compete up to Prelim at training shows. Absolutely check! With good scores in the high 60’s, too.
  • Compete at the Nooitie shows. We did Pre-HOY, HOY and Gauteng, which leaves Nationals and Spring Show. Spring Show will depend on if we still have him.
  • Go cross-country schooling. Not yet, but we will, after the SANESA qualifiers.

Every day I get more and more impressed by this pony – he’s really something special. Rather top-class if you ask me. It’s no surprise that he consistently achieves what we set out to do.

Faith

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  • Stand for grooming and farrier– Both check, both with ease. The farrier wasn’t perfect, but it’ll improve as she grows up. She LOVES the grooming.
  • Lead and tie up. Done, and better than most  of the grownup horses. Clean slates rock.
  • Box well.  – Still need to get to this.
  • Be good to bath. Done; she’s not Arwen, but you can bath her.
  • Be good to catch. Sometimes she still wanders off, but it doesn’t take longer than two minutes to catch the creature. If you have cookies, it’s effortless.
  • Show in-hand. I have my doubts about this one; mentally and physically she could do it and win, but she has grown a coat like a yak, and I’m not shaving it off for one showing class, so we’ll see how she looks by Spring Show.
  • In spring, lunge.
  • In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.

With this girl’s temperament, it’s no surprise that she’s right on track.

Jamaica

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The next few horses didn’t have goals set for them at the beginning of the year, so there’s no time like the present, right?

  • Hack reliably in company. An apparently lofty goal considering he broke his child on a hack, but he’s been OK on little walk hacks in good company, so I think he can do it. He hasn’t dared to buck with me.
  • School Novice dressage. This has been a sticky point. We get really good connection… for a week, and then it’s gone. It was never introduced in his early training and his flatwork is taking a lot of remedial fixing. But if this chap wants to last, he’s going to have to work over his back and carry himself.
  • Jump 90cm graded. I am scared out of my socks, but I have to get Module 5 somehow and even if that’s in next year, we need to make a start and start climbing up the levels somehow.

Lancelot

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This is my last year riding Lancey; I hand him over to Z-kid in December and I want him to be an absolute, ceaseless pleasure for her.

  • Reliably do long hacks alone, in company, and wherever without any drama his kid won’t laugh off. No kid wants a horse that won’t hack, right? He’s been very good on little hacks alone and in company, so we can do this.
  • Do a training show or two at Prelim dressage. Z-kid is in need of some classical training and Zorro certainly isn’t coming down the centreline anytime soon. Lancey is a bit of a baby when it comes to flatwork but Prelim is well within reach.
  • Consistently jump graded at 70cm, preferably clear. I’m not going to push this big muppet to jump higher. He’s still very much a baby in his own mind, but this much he can definitely do.

Trooper

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The aim is for Trooper to do the next SANESA season under a kid; the smaller and more clueless the kid, the better, because that’s what he’s here for. So with that in mind:

  • Do training showjumping shows, up to about 60cm. I’m producing this as a first pony, so he doesn’t need to jump any higher than that.
  • Do training dressage shows, up to Prelim.  Doing jumping and dressage sets him up for pretty much all the SANESA disciplines.
  • Be as safe as a house on hacks, mostly in company.  I don’t think this is going to be awfully hard, although he might be a little nappy at first.
  • Be as safe as a house on the ground. Pretty much there, we just need to go over boxing again.
  • Be fully quiet at shows. I want him so that a three-year-old could lead him around!

Of course, none of the horses, nor the yard belong to me, so my plans are small and secondary. I lay it all down for my King Jesus.

Glory to the King.

Still Alive, Part I

It’s been a little hectic. I plead first burnout, then boot camp, then a much-needed and God-given holiday over Easter.

So this post (the third one in the whole of April – how sad) is about the week of the 3rd of April – two weeks ago.

also rainy

First, I must share these amazing show photos from the training show. Fine Photography never disappoints.

pony jumps fabulously while I hold the neck strap. What are my feet and face even doing??

Jamaica has proven his ability to jump quite happily while I cling to the neck strap in panic. We’re jumping 80cm at home on my bad days and 90cm on my good days and he’s still got plenty of scope to burn, as evidenced by his hauling my bum out of trouble on a regular basis. The unpleasant little brat is almost gone and is now showing his true nature as a really quite dependable, genuine and willing sort of guy.

Realising that my work here is mainly done, I felt I was quite robbing his owners by making them pay me to build my confidence on their horse. Hence, starting next month, Jamaica will be on half lease with me with the aim of jumping Module 5 on him. I think he has the scope and I feel brave on him and he’s very good at jumping even when I’m glued to the saddle in a state of non compos mentis, which is the only possible way I’ll be jumping a 1.00m course anytime soon.

In preparation for our cross-country schooling the next Monday, we also finally went on a hack again for the first time since he broke his child. No arms were broken at all, and he actually behaved quite perfectly, although we did just walk.

Lancelot had a fairly easy week, which I like to give him after a show because his little brain tends to fry very quickly. We did do the 10-steps exercise, which was so hard for his concentration span that I’m sure I saw a few wisps of smoke coming out of his ears. He tried very hard though. I think I need to get video of him under saddle because I think I’ve missed something. I’ve always thought his trot was his most correct gait but in this exercise he struggled the most with transitions out of the trot. I’m not too sure what he’s doing with his body.

Having finally sorted out the lunging issue with Trooper, I plopped myself on board without further ado. He has been ridden before and is surprisingly forward-going, for Trooper. We have walk/trot and a few steps of canter without a single hesitation or spook (I don’t think he knows what a spook even is).

As expected he can tend towards wanting to nap but the habit isn’t established so one or two flicks with my magic pink wand should sort him out quite briskly.

last bath of the season, methinks

Magic and I actually jumped a bit this week, something we haven’t done seriously in ages, all the way up to 70cm. He was having a very good day so I wasn’t too surprised when he happily packed me over each fence with enjoyment and enthusiasm. Taking the pressure off has been so good for us.


Faithy had her feets done for the first time on Wednesday. She’s been good about having them cleaned and I played with holding them between my knees and on my lap like a farrier does, so she didn’t put up too much of a fight. She did drama queen a bit about having to hold them up for so long, apparently. She has lovely feet, as is to be expected of a Nooitie that’s never been messed with.

Apart from desperately needing a clip, it’s been going very well with Destiny. To be honest I would rather like this to be his last month in training with me, depending on his owner, of course. He still has that dishonest little spook but he has three gaits in balance and rhythm including simple trot changes and has been over a little fence or two. I’d like to get him thinking about connection and going on little hacks and then I think my work here is pretty much done. His owner handles him better than I do at this stage; he’s safe enough for her and she can handle his naughtiness, and they don’t have the personality clash that he and I do.

Of course, he might blow up in my face on his first hack and put an end to that idea while I try and fix that, but I doubt it.

Contrary to all appearances, Arwen has been working hard and doing endless dressage. We had a show on the Sunday, our first graded Elementary, and for the first time in a long time I was more excited than nervous. The judge at the last one was unbelievably constructive and helpful, not in that she was over-generous with the marking but just kind enough to say good things as well as bad things. I don’t know if judges know what a profound effect their attitude can have on the trajectory of a horse and rider’s career. Us dressage types already tend to be perfectionistic and hard on ourselves; grumpy judges rather compound the problem.

It really has nothing to do with the marks. It’s no blow to my confidence to get a 4 on a movement that I know we’re no good at, nor should it be. I just don’t like coming down centreline and feeling waves of disapproval radiating from the judge’s box.

Anyway, Arwen and I have done endless mountains of simple changes and they should be a little better now. It’s more about me getting worried about them and crumbling forward and hanging on the reins than her not being able to do them.

The show turned out to be disappointing for the dumbest reason. We had one grumpy judge and one super nice judge and neither were very impressed, giving us a 58 and a 59. Arwen was as sweet as pie and as obedient as I could have asked for, but as I came down the centerline I realised I couldn’t remember the test. I had learned it and my dad was calling it and I still managed to promptly get an error of course. Bleh.

Things kind of went downhill from there as I sort of sat there helplessly making mistakes, knowing full well what I was doing wrong and unable to persuade my floppy body to do anything about it. I felt I rather let Arwen down, not that she gives her left sock. Burnout is real, guys.

second out of two… whoop whoop

It was a bummer to put so much work into something and then get there on the day feeling so drained that it was kinda for nothing. Still, we tried hard and honoured God so that’s the main thing. We also got 2 grading points – 8 to go.
Thunder also went to the show and did his first Prelim. Apparently, despite being exhausted, I can ride Prelim in my sleep and he was a complete angel. He had the odd whinny and one little spook and a little tension but his good moments shone and both judges were suitably impressed. He was second in a class of nine with two scores in the 66’s. “Lovely horse with presence. Lovely walk. Active rhythm. Promising” gushed the grumpy judge.

“Promising” is something I do love to see on a test. He rides Prelim again this weekend under K and I can’t wait to see what he does.


Lady Erin is enjoying the life of the grown-up, independent weanling under the watchful eye of the old queen herself. Skye has practically adopted her and I think it’s good for the little lady to have a field companion that sets a good example (usually) and doesn’t leave the field, to settle her in this crucial time. Milady has also forgotten all about her offspring and is busying herself about restoring her battered body to shiny fatness.

Poor old Exavior has been badly neglected. The Mutterer came out to ride him once and he was pretty good, although he did start chopping and threatening to rear once, so there’s no way I’m going anywhere near his saddle just yet.

Midas has been working on his hacking, something he really enjoys. He didn’t spook at any cows this time, although to be fair none of them came charging over as they sometimes do, so it remains to be seen how he’ll handle that.

Finally (best for last) I must introduce our new arrival, who arrived on the Friday. First, let me explain that God and I have this arrangement where I keep thanking Him for all the yard’s horses and trying to politely explain that we really do have enough now. And then He’s like, “Look what I have for you!” and I’m like “srsly Lord how are we gonna feed it” and He’s like “Just trust Me, darling” and I’m like “OK”.

Enter Ashgar Riverdance.

Ash is a registered Connemara (thus very rare in our country) in her teens. She was jumping the graded 1.00m under her lovely owner at shows, 1.20 (pony A-grade) at home, when she blew a tendon. Then she blew it again and her owner had to decide that retirement was best for her. Apparently, a gorgeous super talented jumping Connemara broodmare is part of God’s plan for Morning Star Stables, so she fell right into our laps.

Ashy is the typical boss lady and a huge favourite, which is a good thing because she has to be walked for 25 minutes a day and the yard rats queue up for the honour.

Next up, recap of boot camp, then it’s back to your regular posts, ladies and gentlemen. Glory to the King.

The Next Thing

Eyes wide open, I see You working

all around me, You’re on the move

Step by step I’m running to meet You

in the next thing, in the next thing

~ Casting Crowns, “The Very Next Thing”

I had not expected following Jesus to have as much of an element of putting one foot in front of the other as it does. I expected fire and lightning, if I expected anything at all. But step by step I’m learning that a lot of self-denial, of endurance, of love is hardest – and just as important – to exercise on the ordinary little days. We’re not called to rejoice only in the storms or in our greatest triumphs, but to rejoice evermore. To pray without ceasing. And that means here, now, in our daily lives, in the next thing. There can be extraordinary power in the ordinary.

And it has been a happy ordinary around here; no dramatic victories to report but a steady, patient climb towards excellence. With God in every breath, which turns ordinary on its head a little, but right now is as close and warm as your own skin.

Sunday was training show day and the jumpers had a good outing (which ended in a three-hour trip home when the box got a flat). Starlight was dead quiet and beautifully behaved but took a pole in each class of 40 and 50cm. Renè also had a few poles, but K rode her admirably and she wasn’t bothered by anything very much except the plank in the first fence.

Apparently the plank worried Lancey too, because he stopped at it in the 60. To be fair a horsebox chose that moment to rumble past right next to the arena and he got a bit distracted; I applied both heels and we clambered over. Then something else – a butterfly, a mote of dust, who knows – distracted him and he stopped at number four too, but after that he jumped fine.

He redeemed himself in the 70 by jumping everything completely fearlessly, just getting penalties for a silly pole because he’s still a little careless with his hindlegs.

Jamaica made up for them all by giving me the most fantastic ride. The 60 was a doddle; he bounced around nonchalantly and won it by four seconds, and then came second in the 70. He was quick but focused, relaxed and attentive and I couldn’t have asked for better.

I really thought reschooling this delinquent after he broke his child was going to be a massive bore, but he’s just been such a blessing. All things work together for good, eh?

Back home today, Arwen continued with the theme of good jumping by absolutely packing my panicky butt through a gymnastic line that really quite challenged her scope. We trotted in to 75cm, then one stride to another 75cm and then three to a wide airy oxer at about 85cm although looking at it I think it was bigger. I was terrified but she just dragoned along dragging me with her. Obviously she didn’t manage three in the three, but she did get the one, which was nice.

Magicky was next and I spent almost an hour fussing over him and cuddling his wonderfulness. Such is the life of the pet horse. He is doing so well and I love him to bits.

Thunder rides his first Prelim on Sunday and I feel like he could score really really well. Of course he probably won’t because he’ll be screaming and bucking and spooking and bolting, but the schooling is there. He’s working over his back beautifully especially in walk and his trot has gained a floaty cadence that hopefully looks as nice as it feels. The canter still needs help to retain its rhythm and jump for more than a lap or so. Even stretchy trot is slowly slowly coming to life.

Midas and Sunè both learned something today; Midas learned to counter bend and improved the quality of his connection, and Sunè learned that running out at the end of a grid gets you a very big hiding. She proceeded to jump beautifully thereafter and seems to enjoy it – I’m chuffed to have found its jump button.

I also weaned Lady E today. I feel like a pig. Not to Lady Erin – she is happily hanging out with Skye and Vastrap. Poor old Milady is the one doing the shouting. It’s for your own good, Milady. Magic is not helping the situation by running up and down screaming for no reason that he really knows.

I also rode Eagle properly for the first time today and regrettably have no pictures of this momentuous occasion. He is super. I literally hopped on and said “Walk on” and he walked on without a touch. We got a lap of the ring each way with whoa, go and turn and I am very very chuffed.

Trooper got his first saddle, which I at least got a picture of. I forgot to untie him for this milestone because he was sleeping and stayed sleeping throughout. He did wake up to lunge, though, and behaved very well.

Little steps that keep taking us forward. Glory to the King.

Greenies!

I’ve been going on about the big horsies quite frequently, so it’s about time we talked about the bunch of babies.

such a regal and majestic big horse

There are five not-yet-competing green horses on my list each week. (“Green” is a pretty relative term around here – since most of the competing horses have actually only started competing this year). They vary from Destiny, who can canter most days, to Faith, who has never seen the inside of a lunging ring.

There’s not a whole lot to say about Faithy. There’s not a whole lot to do with a two-year-old Nooitie – we’ve accomplished most of what we needed to this year. Basically it still needs to get in a box and show in hand and then I’ll be twiddling my thumbs until backing time.

She just has the best attitude. She can still wander off when I want to catch her, but she’s obedient and responsive and loooooves to be groomed. I just adore her work ethic – every time we leave the field she perks up. Let’s go learn something!

Her body has been changing, though. As you can clearly see, she’s still very much the awkward two-year-old. But I think I spy that the front end is rapidly catching up with the bum. That would be really rather nice.

December vs March

Then there is Exavior.

heartthrob horse

He is looking the best he’s ever looked. Seriously, the creature is rather drool-worthy.

and 16.1hh

I still haven’t been on him again, and I don’t plan to get back on him until he can walk/trot/canter like a school pony under the Mutterer. I have decided to not give myself any frights on that monster. I love him too much, and I have worked too hard on it, to lose my nerve on him and ruin our relationship.

So I lunge him on the days the Mutterer doesn’t ride. He was an absolute jerk the first few times he worked in the dressage arena, including trampling me, rearing at me, and kicking at me (this is why it’s my last warmblood ever) but now he is back to his very pleasant self.

being babysat by Stardust so he can calm down about the scary stable

The horse does have a very good mind in there buried under the baby-warmbloodness. When he’s not worried about anything, he is intelligent, hardworking and honest as the day; when he is worried he’s violent, sensitive and huge. I really love doing things he’s not afraid of – he learns fast and is easy to teach when he’s not scared.

Yesterday we lunged over a little fence. I keep waiting to see some scope from Mr. Fancy Bloodlines, but he’s severely unimpressed by my little jumps. He is dead honest, though. And I think he loves it.

*plop*

The other redhead baby is Destiny, who still never feels good but still makes good progress anyway. We don’t lunge before riding anymore and these days I make him go large in three gaits, which he does with surprising balance and ease. Schooling him would be so, so easy if he’d just give up on the spooking.

Regrettably, D has a very dishonest spook. He picks a spot each ride that is going to be the spook spot of the day, usually something he’s seen a thousand times before (and not always the same thing) and just has a little wiggle at it the first time we walk past. I dutifully take him over to it and let him touch it and lick and chew. Then we carry on and he’s apparently unaware of it in walk and trot, and usually in canter left too.

But the moment we come by in canter right, he spooks hugely. Luckily he’d given me the wiggle when we walked by, so I’m always ready for it and can sit it out. But it drives me nuts. He has the capacity to be such a lovely little chap – and then he has to pull out silly tricks like this.

We’re still progressing fairly well, though. He canters large fairly nicely and can make circles – they’re a bit motorbikey, but they’re there. He just needs to give up this new game and then we can start doing cool stuff like connecting and jumping and going to shows.

tired pony hopefully learned something

Eagle is doing super. I didn’t sit on him yesterday, because we introduced him to the dressage arena on the long lines and I’m not quite ready to do backing outside of my 15m comfort zone.

He was really, really good. He didn’t mind standing in the stable and he was not worried about a thing when I long-lined him large. The circling was a little more trouble; he was so chill I couldn’t get him to go forward. He’s also one of those super supple babies that wiggle and squiggle and flop all over the place on the lines because pulling the head around doesn’t achieve anything. Having a leg on either side of him will make that job rather easier.

no big deal

And lastly, there is cute little Trooper. I think we have finally resolved the lunging issue. He now takes responsibility for going forward in walk and trot, and I can get four laps of uninterrupted canter with only a little waving of the whip and shouting. He actually has a very cute little balanced canter – possibly because he doesn’t bother to go fast enough to lose his balance – so we are finally ready to start putting on a saddle and long lines. I think being on board with a dressage whip is going to be much easier than clumsily schooling him on the lunge.

“Not forward going” is not the worst vice a kid’s pony can have. I think he’s going to be as safe as a house from the word go.

so handsome!

We finished the day off with lessons,

I’ve only partially stolen Thunny back from the riding school – the poor little ponies don’t have to carry all the tall teenagers

and a super little relaxing hack on Sunè accompanied by a very thrilled groom L on her new lease – Starlight.

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.

Beauty

The world is broken and sad and dark and hurting, but God is brilliant and beautiful and healing and joyous, and He shines through the cracks in plain sight for everyone whose eyes are open. Glimpses of Him take my breath away. I don’t see Him as often as I should, and certainly not as often as He is there. But when I do, He sets my heart burning inside me, like the disciples said in Luke 24.

He’s here, in the wildflowers framed by delicate Arab ears. (Photo taken between spooks).

He’s here in the glimmer on Trooper’s coat as he starts to blossom. I love to see what He created shine through as the pain of a sad past falls away.

He’s in the fact that I did three manes today and they were all fine, a miracle in itself.

He’s in the fact that my DisasterDog is still fully happy and mobile despite having lived for six years with severe hip dysplasia.

He’s in the quiet companionship of moments like these with my stalwart little school pony colleagues as we hack back to the field in the golden evening light.

He’s in the unfailing loyalty of my little shadow.

God’s right here, closer than my skin. And I am grateful.

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.

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.

Introducing Blizzard, Eagle and Trooper

Long day = short post, but at least it’s an exciting one.

First, a brief (overdue!!) Nugget update. In short, Snuggles (yes, that is my nickname for literally the only horse on this place you can’t snuggle) is doing really much better. We had a lot of breakthroughs this month, resulting in a still-nervous, still-grumpy pony that I can now attach a lead to and groom. It feels soooo good to finally get a currycomb on that golden coat. And to know that, should she be sick or hurt, I can help her at last.

However. The simple fact remains that Nugget is not going to be a sale pony, not from where we’re standing now, anyway. Can I help her to be rideable eventually? Yes. Could a child ride her someday? I think so. But would she be 100% safe and happy in a competitive home? I don’t believe so. Her scars just run so deep, right now I don’t think it would be fair to expect it of her.

All is not lost, however. I’m going to keep working with her and if God wills it, she’ll become a broodmare. She accepts new things readily and I believe genetically the temperament is there. She’s pretty and mostly correct and moves very well. If we can get her completely comfortable about people on the ground, it should be a win-win. God willing.

Anyway, that did leave us without a sale pony to follow up on Midas once he goes, so God (with typical impeccable timing) found us a new one. Everybody, meet Morning Star Trooper.

He is about three years old, measures 144cm (just over 14hh) and is of dubious breeding. He is also an almost supernatural level of adorable. I named him for his temperament, which can be entirely summarised in one sentence: he’s just such a trooper.

Troopy has been through a lot in his little life; his previous owners pulled him out of a horrific situation, half dead with septicaemia in all four his legs and sheath. They didn’t think he’d make it, and none of the other horses from the same place did, but he carried on. He has that endless patience of a horse that’s just happy to be alive and safe, and God’s got a plan with him.

The other two new horses aren’t really new. They originally came to me in April from a little yard that has since closed; half wild, covered in bots and rain scald, and with their faces raw from their ill-fitting headcollars. We patched them up and they stayed here until moving to a bigger yard in September. I thought I’d never see them again, but apparently God had other ideas.

The horses have since been sold on and their new owners decided to send them to me for backing before going to their own farm to be ridden by their exceedingly likeable teenage daughter. I think there’s a happy ending in store for the two guys.

They are lifelong buddies from the same stud; Blizzard is a blanket Appaloosa who greyed out and is now a white Appaloosa with black spots on his bum, and Eagle is half Arab, half Appaloosa and apparently 100% Black Beauty.

All three the boys are varying degrees of halter trained, so I’ve got some backing to do. No complaining here. Glory to the King.