10 Questions from Me, My God and Maverick

Sorry for the extended silence, y’all. August has been one of those months that you tell kids about when they think they want to be stableyard managers. Somehow I managed to overbook the training at exactly the same time of year that the SANESA season gets serious, the seasons begin to change, and everything promptly either catches flu or colics – horses and people. None of which I’m really complaining about, because God has been with us, and the extra business was a blessing – but I hope you’ll forgive the fact that blogging fell by the wayside.

Mercifully, it is now September, my schedule is pleasantly full but no longer physically impossible, and it’s not so windy and I can blog again. When Rachel kindly tagged me in her post, I knew it was just the thing to get my feet wet once more.

Rachel’s 10 Questions

1. What is your impression of Australia?

Never having been beyond the borders of South Africa, much less all the way to Australia, I wouldn’t really know. The Australians that I do know tend to be no-nonsense, fun-loving and don’t give their left sock what anyone thinks of them, so there’s that. There are kangaroos. That said, Australia doesn’t seem to feature in many of the major worldwide dramas – so it’s no surprise that so many South Africans are immigrating there.

2. How did you start blogging?

I’ll be honest that I don’t even remember. I had a subsection on a tiny family website we had years ago, where I started blogging as early as 2009 or so – I was all of twelve years old. Maybe even earlier. Like many writers, I journal obsessively. I always wanted to capture the breathtaking experience of life, and as I met my Jesus and gave my life to Him, that blossomed into an opportunity to spread the Word.

3. What is your favorite animal and why?

It’s actually a tougher question than you’d think. I have to go with horses, but dogs come a very close second. Horses, because they are such deeply emotional beings, with such intricate social and emotional lives. I have found that their emotions are the closest we find to ours in all domesticated species. Through them God teaches me such profound lessons; through them He speaks to me. They are His megaphone into my heart.

Dogs, on the other hand, just love you forever. Sometimes it’s through puppy dog Ice that God makes me feel better when nothing else can.

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4. How has God blessed you this past week?

I woke. There were sunrises. Birdsong. Fresh air. Music. Horses. A great, steadfast Hand holding mine when it all became too much. Volunteering. I spent time on my knees. Horses smell amazing. Jesus loves me. I could go on.

5. What is you favorite recreation?

Dressage is where my soul worships, but not where it rests. I like sleeping and TV, as anyone does, I suppose. When I’m burnt out on horses and the yard – much as I love it, it can become so consuming – working with the medics or taking Ice to touch therapy refreshes my soul and gives me perspective.

6. Do you have a story you can share?

For the first time in years, I finally do again – I have, at last, began to draft a novel. It’s been years, probably four or five years? But I’m five weeks and 12 000 words in. It’s slow progress but it’s finally happening. The Defeat of Isaiah Abilene has a far darker and more broken tone than anything else I’ve ever written, but I feel like God wants to tell this story through me. It’s therapy, too, as service often is.

7. What is your passion?

I’ve long since found that nothing but my Triune God is worth pouring my fire into, and that He is the One Who stokes that fire when it burns low for everything else. Everything loses its allure sooner or later – everything but Him. It’s only when I find Him in everything that I can believe in it.

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8. What is your favorite Bible story or verse?

Ooh. There are so many. Psalm 107, the story of my wandering soul and the God Who just won’t let it go. The Gospels, all of them, front to back. I have always loved 1 Samuel 17 because my own giants can be enormous and I stand before them with a sling and a stone. Moses parting the Red Sea because I’ve seen seas step aside for my Abba Father. All of it, really, all of it.

9. What brings you inspiration?

God, in various ways; in His Word, in prayer, in the heartbreaking beauty of the world He made and we are destroying, in dancing with horses, in good music, in films and stories, in friendship. But whenever I lack courage, I pull Arwen out of the field and we dance. She reminds me that we are the dragonhearted.

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10. Can/do you draw?

Surprisingly, I used to be able to sketch well when I was taking lessons from an incredible artist in exchange for riding his little Arab mare. Now, I sketch when I have the energy. A good sketch takes me 12-16 hours and I just don’t have that anymore, so these days I just line draw, often from memory or imagination instead of the photorealism I was trying for.

Update on the horses and things to follow.

Glory to the King.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Cowgirlin’ (and a little bit of jumping too)

Only too happy to be playing with my new saddle, I spent Wednesday morning charging around on Skye and Thunder. Skye was in a very fiery mood and enjoyed herself thoroughly; we went for a long outride which basically went like this:

Skye: Let’s run!

Me: Not right now. Walk on.

Skye: How about now?

Me: Nope. Still walking. Sorry.

Skye: And now?

Me: Fine, you can jog a little.

Skye: Whoohoo! *breaks into a jog that goes more upwards than forwards*

Me: Maybe you should have been a dressage horse after all.

Skye: Can we run now?

I love those chestnut ears
I love those chestnut ears

We stopped over at the dam to strip off saddle and boots and swim across the middle; I intended to wade, but suddenly the water came up over Skye’s back, I planted my fists in her mane and she paddled happily across, snorting every now and then. The swim cooled us both down and refreshed us enough that it was worth riding home in wet jeans on a new saddle. I did eventually give her a run by cantering the kilometre or two home without a break, which I hoped would satisfy her, but oh no, not Skye. She danced the rest of the way home, snorting, prancing and generally telling the world how amazing she was.

Thunder was in a less wild-eyed mood and impressed me no end by being absolutely perfect with both gates today. Being able to open and close a gate whilst mounted is a really useful and surprisingly difficult skill. Skye and I do it virtually in our sleep, having had plenty of practice, but Thunder still finds all the maneuvering kind of hard, thanks to a tree standing right next to the gate. This time, though, he was perfect; he went exactly where I wanted, turned on the haunches, turned on the forehand, backed up and stood dead still while I leaned down his side to latch it. I was sufficiently impressed.

We jogged up to the rocky hill known as the Unchartered Territory and walked along beside the public road; a truck blared past when were about 50-100m from the road and Thunder didn’t turn a hair. A guinea fowl leaping out of the bushes was a life-threatening danger, though, and he leapt into the air and bolted one step before I got him under control, turned him in a circle, gave him a smack and told him exactly what I thought about that kind of behaviour. Thunder, to his credit, stood dead still, watching the guinea fowl fly away. Once he was standing still on a loose rein I gave him a rub and told him not to be so daft again, and he relaxed completely. That’s the nice thing about Thun – his spooks last a few seconds and then they’re over. He doesn’t stay nervous for ages the way some youngsters do.

In fact we had a nicely relaxed canter on the way home and he didn’t even look at the handful of scary things we encountered. He just needs to get used to birds and duiker jumping out of bushes. They’re his one weakness.

Beautiful sweet filly by Amor
Beautiful sweet filly by Amor

Thursday was a hectic day; I barely had time for school, a quick blog post and to change Magic’s bandages (his wound is on the mend without any infection) before it was time to rush off to the stables for work. We were on quite a tight schedule with four horses to work within two hours, and two new foals having been born that morning. One of the mares wouldn’t push out her afterbirth and needed veterinary attention, so it was general madness.

Reed and I had time for a really good session, though. I set him up a double of two crossrails with about 8.5m in between them (I never know how to distance a double for Reed; they say a stride is 3.5m, but possibly not for a 14hh pony), theoretically two strides. I wanted to see how adjustable he was and how we could improve our rhythm. Reed definitely benefited from our transition session on Tuesday; especially his halts were much sharper and cleaner than usual and he didn’t fall onto my hands so much. His frame was a bit worse, probably because I didn’t lunge him first, but otherwise he was pretty nice.

We jumped the double a few times and we both started off extremely crooked; we would wobble along to the first jump, jump it at its highest point, veer wildly off course and then somehow scramble over the second one. This happened two or three times until I got fed up, shortened my reins and took control over him. I’m too used to Arwen and Magic, who both approach extremely straight, although Arwen drifts sometimes. Reed is the opposite; he approaches in a squiggle and then jumps dead straight. When I took control and rode him assertively throughout, though, Reed jumped beautifully straight and lost his crookedness almost completely.

Filly by the little man Reed himself
Filly by the little man Reed himself

We ended up jumping the double with both jumps 90cm uprights, and he didn’t have a single stop. I experimented with adjusting his strides. He started off putting two strides into the related distance and then a nasty little half-stride before jumping, so I sped him up and had him lengthen his steps until he was putting in two big strides and then jumping smoothly. He had to stretch a bit, but he made it. Because he had to stretch himself so much I tried asking him for three very short strides. Poor Reed shot himself in the foot. He jumps exactly where and when asked, and won’t save himself the way Arwen does, so we jumped, put in three strides and then found ourselves right on top of the second jump. I gave him my heels and hands but no horse could have jumped that from there, so he crashed through it, poor dude. I thought he might lose his nerve having rapped his front legs on the pole, but instead he just jumped hugely with his knees tucked right up once or twice before going back to his usual self.

We finished off by jumping a 1.00m upright a couple of times and then calling it a day, with a very tired Reed and a very happy rider. Poor Reed, he will eventually get fit, although our sessions are hard workouts for him at the moment.

Because I was schooling stallions, I cooled my heels for half an hour while a client had a lesson on his beautiful Arab stallion Galeel. That’s the big pain with stallions – we can’t have two people in the arena at once, unlike with mares and geldings. (Well, with Reed you usually can, but we weren’t taking chances as Galeel is still very young and green. We’re not Lipizzaner riders!). Once Galeel had gone off to his paddock I fetched cute little Chrome for his third time under saddle ever.

Chrome and I last week
Chrome and I last week

Chrome is one of those dreamy horses who seems to be born knowing the aids; he doesn’t really neck-rein yet, but he’s just as responsive to my hands as to my legs, and apart from the occasional slap with the end of the reins he doesn’t need a lot of encouragement to go forward unlike a lot of these relaxed horses. We walked in circles, walked and jogged figure eights and worked properly on loping for the first time. Chromey gave me six laps of the arena without a single real buck. The worst he did was to plunge into a gallop from a jog for a few strides before settling into his beautiful smooth lope.

He’s just a really nice, straightforward, down-to-earth, easygoing little dude and a joy to work with. Add to this the fact that he is chestnut with socks and a blaze and you have me thoroughly enchanted with him.

It was quite a scramble to get Chrome unsaddled – I had worked a bit late with him; unfortunately, when I’m schooling a horse, the rest of the world kind of disappears for me -and we charged off to art class just in time to meet Galeel’s owner at the church/studio. Galeel’s owner is also one of the best equine artists in South Africa, and I was stoked to be getting art classes from him.

Poor old half-drawn Arab
Poor old half-drawn Arab, pardon the smudgy fingerprints

Okay, so the shading sucks and my poor horse doesn’t look anything like he does on the photos, but he’s a lot of fun to draw. Hopefully I’ll finish him in the next class or two, and do the next one rather better.

This weekend is Outride Weekend; maybe my longsuffering boyfriend and I can take Thunder for his first outride on our neighbour’s farm. I’m rather looking forward to that!