Full-Hearted

Isn’t it the most wonderful thing to see God at work? He’s in everything at this little yard; present in each lesson, supervising each training session, caring about every small child and every bratty pony as His own. Even this particularly pathetic and grubby little daughter of His, so often mired in petty worries and little frustrations, often stands thunderstruck by the wonder of His amazing love.

Every time I ride Thunder he becomes more adept with the steps of the basic dance. Prelim is, well, Prelim; the hardest thing we do is four or five strides of semi-lengthened trot. But he’s becoming so joyous, so supple and balanced and connected and lifting through his back, that even simple working trot corners and circles are almost addictive to ride. We made a lot of progress with his canter, too. He has a lot more spring and carrying power behind these days and his hocks have visibly come under him more in the space of a few sessions.

My secret ambition is to break 70% on him this year. I don’t school him with this goal in mind, but I will be hoping for that number on a test sometime.

This is Firepaw. When she’s not terrorising the dogs, she sits majestically in this bowl and waits to be fed.

I’ve been focusing a lot more on having my riders work in light seat and without stirrups lately. Almost every time I have a private lesson booked, I teach a lunging lesson. Previously from the start my focus was heavily on independent control of the pony, which is a good thing, but the more I teach the more I realise how essential position is and how important it is to teach a good one from the very beginning. No-stirrups and light seat just never figured in my early education; I taught myself both. My new rule is that we only move on to a new gait when the rider can perform the old gait independently without stirrups.

It turns out I can catch Nugget, halter or no halter, with ease as long as I have a treat for her. I do want to wean her off the treats but there’s no denying that they worked when nothing else did. I even gave her her AHS vaccine without any drama whatsoever; I was feeding her with one hand and injecting with the other, the lead hanging loosely over my elbow, and she just gave a little flinch as she felt the needle. It’s a massive relief; now I know she can get medical treatment if she needs it.

Her feet are in quite a state. I can lift the fronts and tuck them between my knees like a farrier, so if I can borrow some clippers I might be able to do something about them, but we don’t talk about the hind feet just yet. Nobody else can come near her without getting kicked.

Blizzard’s first long-line was disastrous, so we backed up to lunging again. Pleased to announce that he now has three beautiful, relaxed, obedient, rhythmic gaits on the lunge and hasn’t put his tongue over the bit for a while.

He has no tendency to violence but he can be just as stubborn and silly as his small eye suggests. He wouldn’t be much of a competition horse, but his inherent quietness should make him a nice plod-along sort of hack.

Destiny has been going so much better. Still flinchy and spooky to hack, but rideable. He cottoned on to the idea of connection so quickly and can work connected from behind for a quite surprising length of time without getting tired. We even took him down to the grass jumping arena and he popped around like he doesn’t know what a spook even is.

Arwen is feeling much better after chiro. I was right that she was out in her neck but wrong about where; C6, not C3. She also had some tension through the lumbar spine (L2, L4, and L6) and was out in her sacrum on the right. She has been able to connect her neck a lot better since and to bend both ways far more easily (her shoulder-ins are easily twice as good as they were). I think the pelvis realignment also helped her to sit better through her canter-walk transitions. Nothing truly magical, but a definite improvement.

I think Arwen is beginning to feel a physical limitation at this level. She is incredibly correct throughout her conformation, but definitely not the most athletic horse ever and it’s starting to show somewhat. This actually doesn’t bother me like I thought it would. Losing first Nell and then Rainbow, then having personal financial restrictions that limit the amount of competitions I can do myself, have been so good for my attitude.

Dressage used to be a sport. Now it’s a dance three ways; thinking human, moving beast, loving God, all celebrating the wonderfulness of creation and its Creator. Arwen and I are greatly enjoying this level and I honestly don’t mind if we go no further. We can do Elementary forever until we do it perfectly, or we can go event again, or we can stay at home and dance. Dragonbeast doesn’t owe me a thing.

Nor does old Skye, but she stays beautiful.

I only rode Magic once this week, and only down the centreline and along one long side before he had a bit of a meltdown about the geese. Anxiety is a female canine. We worked through it, though. There’s no rush, we take it one day, one breath at a time.

Faithy wore a saddle; not for any real reason other than that I didn’t feel like carrying it up the hill. Obviously, she didn’t mind one bit. We also put her in the horsebox again, this time without a bum rope, but with some cookies.

She is a lovely citizen at the moment, but can tend to get a bit forward and pulling when hand walked somewhere unfamiliar. The horse loves to work, though. She enjoys people and likes learning. I think she might grow up into a bit of a hot and spooky type, but there’s nothing wrong with the work ethic, and that’s my main thing. Hot and spooky we can work with.

I failed badly at pictures this week, so here’s a little cuteness to break up the text. Stardust is looking the best she’s ever looked and feeling great in her body and mind, too. I keep her for beginners and hacks now; her gimpy leg has improved, but I doubt she’ll ever really be able to jump or easily canter on the off lead. She’s super with beginners and has lovely smooth gaits, so she has plenty to do, and the slower work suits her well so she’s become friendly and perky again instead of the typical grouchy schoolie. Lullaby has been heading in that direction lately – never really naughty with the kids, but grumpy to catch and tack up, so we’re diverting some of her work onto Sunè and Starlight.

Eagle has become so confident on hacks that he’s started to get quite forward and pull – heading out, not back. Silly nana. He can still have the odd look at things, but we’ve been hacking alone and in company and he’s always happy to do the thing and stays rideable through everything.

Lancey is preparing for his first dressage tests next weekend. He’s going in at the deep end with Prelim 3 and 4 and I don’t expect miracles, but he just has to keep it together and do what I say and I’ll be happy.

Trooper jumped! He actually went up in the air and over the jump with all four feet and then cantered off. Poor little chap. He’s safe as a house though. He can just about go do a walk/trot test and a POG class, so as soon as his passport is done we’ll be attempting an outing or two.

The upcoming SANESA show will likely be my last on Midas, depending on the little girl who’s been trying him in the school, and on whether we get through to Finals. I would still love to jump around EV60 with him, but I won’t break the bank trying, and with training fairly in demand it makes sense to palm him off on VT’s child until he sells.

Glory to the King.

Some Highlights

Y’all know the drill by now: it was madness. Indeed it was. A happy mad jumble of riding, volunteering, lessons and challenges. I’m just going to go down my camera roll and blather. It’s something, right?

Thunder continues to work on the most basic things, most of which he’s already mastered, but with the whole year to do Prelim I aim to do it excellently. If I’d only worked harder on Arwen at Prelim I wouldn’t have to keep filling in holes at Elementary, and I won’t make the same mistake with this chap. And he’s soaking it up like a gigantic amiable sponge. Because it doesn’t hack and I generally don’t jump him, I’d think he’d get so bored he’d fall over. But he likes it; for all his behind-the-leg-ness, he’s got the most amazing work ethic.

We’ve sorted the right and left bend thing and stretched the trot. Now we’re concentrating on the quality of his canter. I’m teaching him to go and carry me powerfully forward with my leg completely off and today he had moments of tremendous power between my leg and hand. The stuff of goosebumps; dancing with my horse and my King.

Simple moments like these with my brave old charger light up my day. So blessed to still have her gracing our fields with full vim and vigour at her age.

The remains of a hapless blanket after the wind blew it into Magic and Xave’s field and the two of them shredded it. Luckily neither of them take blankets off each other, but blankets on the ground are apparently fair game.

Ashy is now at the point in her rehab where she can be ridden. She’s a total joy and now walking for ten minutes a day under L.

Rising star E had her first few lessons on Lisna, who does not disappoint. It took E a while to get used to Lisna’s tremendous stride but now they’re looking more harmonious.

She’s a lovely, big, quality mare and she gives me goosebumps –

– and E the kind of smiles we don’t see from our teens too often. These are the moments when I can taste God’s purpose for us.

Blizzard’s lunging is improving, although his first session on the long lines was less inspiring. He does take the bridle a lot easier than he used to.

My scared little kid has had such a terrible setback for no apparent reason. Such is phobia. We’re back to grooming, and Lady Erin is the only one with feet small enough for kiddo to lift by himself.

This is Savanna, our new TB (and by “our” I mean “a teenager’s”). She is only six but conducts herself like a quiet old hand. Sorry for the ribs, we’re covering them up. I don’t think she’s seen so much hay in her life – she’s apparently glued to the bale. First time I’ve ever seen a horse roll and eat at the same time.

This TB don’t need no more fattening. It’s getting embarrassing. His new psychological happy place is translating into a physical throughness and relaxation I’ve never felt before. It feels great.

Eagle has mostly been hacking and he’s lovely. He can have the odd stop and gawp at things, but never anything dramatic. He and Lancey went out with L and I, and both were totally relaxed. I even canter him around a bit on hacks and I’m not big on cantering outside on babies, but Eagle inspires confidence.

It was cold. Our dogs are spoiled. Photo captured in the split second between Ice sitting up and Ice becoming a blur towards the door.

Savanna was not amused by my offers of balancer; I had to mix it with grass pellets to get her eating. I’d say “gotta love thoroughbreds” only Faith did exactly the same.

My mighty dragon had gone through such a bad patch in terms of bend and connection that I called the chiro because she was so stiff through her neck (around C3). Of course, the day after I made the appointment, she suddenly went fifty times better. There’s still a hint of tightness there so we’ll see what the chiro says.

I sat on Skye for the first time in two or three years, the 40m from the stables to her fields, on a crazy little whim. She nearly launched me to Timbuktu but decided against it at the last moment. There’s such a fire in that horse’s soul.

Trooper has been wonderful. He figured out basic contact and connection so sweetly and is completely reliable on hacks alone and in company. Jumping, sadly, is another story. He’ll go between the uprights, he’ll even try leave the poles up, but he doesn’t really get that he can actually, you know… jump. He’ll figure it out when he’s ready.

I wuv him

Jamaica and I had a very stern discussion about brakes and now his willing attitude has slowly restored my nerve. He’s so good about jumping and listening most of the time, but some of the basics are really still missing. Lots of gymnastics and exercises in this one’s future.

I left Nugget’s halter off this morning. I think I’ll be able to catch her tomorrow… but I couldn’t cope with the rubbing and scruffiness anymore. She followed me afterwards and let me pet her without chewing my arm off or anything, so that’s hopeful.

Every morning I start with Nugget, and the whole time I’m grooming her, Faith marches up and down the fence and nickers to me. I think it’s just for the cookies she gets to stretch with, but it gives me the warm fuzzies either way.

Happy old farts: Skye (somewhere in her mid to late 20s) and Benjamin (rising 21). Both my seniors, both looking amazing. I hope I look like that when I’m their age in horse/donkey years.

look look my legs are long (when pony is 13.1)

Midas is mostly jumping with the kid, and I do the dressage. I’m somewhat giddy on the 68% we got last time and I really hope things pan out in such a way that we can get more of a warmup and score even better in two weeks’ time.

Lady Erin is well on her way to becoming a good citizen. She leads nicely, ties up, is lovely to groom, and stands for the farrier. Next topics: shots and loading.

I’m hoping this kid and Midas might become a permanent partnership. Their personalities and abilities are well suited, but she did have trouble getting him to go forward. Methinks the leg aids are higher up than he’s used to. We’ll keep trying and see how it goes; he’s been very safe.

Tried to get a selfie with a Night Fury and an overgrown puppy.

Failed.

Also tried to get a picture of my three dance partners all lined up from biggest to smallest, but they kept following me and mugging me for treats. Love them anyway, or maybe because.

African sunrises and the love of horses. I am terribly loved.

Glory to the King.

Trails and Trailers

Today our yard was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This week everyone progressed in leaps and bounds, which is wonderful; we had a really productive, steady week and I feel ridiculously blessed. And I don’t use that word lightly.

Eagle went on his first little hack. I played it safe, as I always do with Eagle, and it wasn’t necessary, like it never is with Eagle. We did ten minutes around the bales, but it does involve cows, pigs, tractors and my arch-nemesis, the washing line. Eagle handled all of this with aplomb, strolling along with his topline floppy and ears to the side.

I bought fantastic red boots. They’re actually Jamaica’s, but if you’re the dragonbeast, you get to wear everyone else’s cool stuff. Arwen schooled Elementary 2 and 3 in preparation for a show on Sunday and her simple changes are streets and streets better. The leg-yield FX is quite nice, but the leg-yield back XM tends to have trailing quarters. The shoulder-in is better but still rather lacking. Either way, hopefully we get grading points.

Jamaica and I have done fine lately. (Also, how incredible are those boots??) We jumped a few exercises at 80-85cm and even installed lead changes over a fence with minimal trouble. He’s so honest. I’m so enjoying the novel experience of having a horse that will just canter right down to the fence and jump it every single time, no questions asked.

His flatwork remains mediocre but the addition of the market harborough has helped somewhat.

Faithy got in the box. I used the bum rope at first, and because she’s such a baby I didn’t spend long on it, but by the end she was strolling in without pressure on the bum rope. Every little session like this teaches me more about her personality. She’s trainable and responsive, but quite different from the ponies and hacks; there’s a sharpness here, an opinion. I rather like it. She’s a strong woman.

I clipped a shooting star on Vastrap’s butt because his kid asked. The clippers clipped half his other side and gave up. Now he’s running about with one butt cheek adorned by a shooting star and the other completely hairy  – a situation I promise to remedy ASAP. Or at least before SANESA Q3.

One of my kids built me this and persistently attempts to rent it out to me. I countered this by constantly asking for improvements, which backfired badly when he then raised his price. Outsmarted by an eight-year-old.

This would be so much easier if he wasn’t gorgeous and talented. I lunged him over a little fence, about 80cm, and his technique and scope give me goosebumps.

I got his ears up at least, even if his eyes are closed. Both up ears and open eyes seldom occur simultaneously

Trooper now has canter circles firmly installed and is becoming easy to ride. His cute tiny gaits are comfortable, if boring to look at. We also trotted over his first itty bitty cross and went on a hack, which was utterly uneventful.

As expected.

Working student L writes module one in July, so we’ve been hard at work. Ash helped with the ultra-fun points of the horse exercise.

She was not amused, but L did brilliantly and much fun was had.

Thunny is working so beautifully lately. He does Prelim 2 and 3 on Sunday and you know what, if he behaves like he does at home I think we might even place again. His weak points – left bend, keeping “jump” in the canter, and stretchy trot – have all improved hugely. Left bend matches right bend, I can keep the canter three-beat most of the time, and he stretches down to his knees. Such a clever baby.

Of course, he is a baby. So it’s rather unlikely that he’ll be perfect and score like 70% and more probable that he’ll scream the whole time and spook at C and get 40%. At least I know he has it in him.


Blizzard is ultra-cute. I’m going to start working him next week, and I’m rather looking forward to it.

Magic has gotten wonderfully fat, lazy and laid-back. He’s happy as a bird lately. Of course, he still has his little moments (case in point: was ground tied outside the stable, spooked at a goose, shied, spooked at his lead rein, stood on his lead rein, spooked at himself standing on his lead rein, yanked up his head and got slapped on the nose by the lead rein), but he comes right back to me these days.

He’s settling into a happier place than he’s ever been. He’ll always be quirky and sensitive and sharp, and some scars just don’t heal. But he can be happy and he can be meaningful, and right now, he’s both. More so than ever before.

Mr. Destiny and I came to an agreement: he’d spook wildly and I’d ignore him. Not much of an agreement, but at least we managed to jump a little and work on his canter transitions. His mom also rode him today; a giant storm was on its way and the wind was enough to make anything spooky, but he was no worse than normal.

He also went on his first hack. I dressed for the occasion because I thought I might die, but he was actually really good. Tense at first, but he just followed the older pony L escorted us on, and on the way home he took the lead and marched confidently forward with nary a spook in sight. Good brat.

Eagle got in the box, too, and it was a total non-event. I walked in, he stopped at the ramp, I stood there and let him figure it out, and in thirty seconds flat he got in too. No fuss, no bum rope. That’s my good boy.

Zorro’s kid has been in hospital (nothing huge), but he’s not had an uneventful week. We clipped him, one of the rising stars rode him, and then he developed a massive crush on Skye and broke all the fences. Seriously, Zorro?


Vastrap’s kid’s mom handmade the most amazing blankets. Doesn’t he look fetching in camo? Rather like a distinguished old lieutenant if you ask me.

when your coach is cool so you get to ride her fancy horse with her expensive stuff but she’s also tall so… yeah

Lessons with coach K have just been amazing recently. I got to ride the incredible Skrikkie today. I was hoping to ride through my Elementary tests but he wouldn’t go into the dressage arena because there was a hosepipe across the path. I think I love him so much because he’s what Magic would have been given the right circumstances. The biggest wuss ever, but also with the most courageous and generous heart you could ever ask for.

I also rode Troy, a schoolie I’m not familiar with, and felt a little bored jumping the EV70 fences (can you imagine? Me, bored?). So I asked K if I could jump the EV80 house, and then we were galloping through water and jumping banks down and the most ridiculous EV80 related distances and guess what? It was fun. I had fun on xc! On a horse I’d never ridden! At 80cm!

I’m eternally grateful to K and her schoolies. God is doing something truly mighty inside me, something I had tried so hard and for so long to do for myself. My deep struggle is being turned into a long and beautiful chapter in the shining novel that is the story of my life; that is, the love story about a King Who loved a peasant girl. And for the first time, I can’t wait to read the next page.

Glory to the King.

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.