First Lesson of 2019

After weeks of our plans being thwarted due to, variously, Thunder being sick, me pitching off of Rio and hurting myself, and then both of us being unfit, we finally managed to schedule a lesson for last week. Poor darling found himself boxing us across the province in rush hour traffic, but he did sign up for it, poor wonderful chap.

Thunderbird is still not super fit, but able to do half an hour of solid work, so I figured it was time that J helped get us back on track.

We’re still struggling with the same things: downwards transitions, angle and suppleness in shoulder-in, collection and mediums. I mentioned this to J when we arrived. He doesn’t seem too concerned over our mediums: they are generally straight and not rushing, but not yet very powerful, which he says will come with strength and practice.

The first thing J wanted to address was the shoulder-in. At our last show it was one of our worst marks, with the judge saying there was too much angle and not enough suppleness. At home, obviously, I decided that this would be fixed by pulling the inside rein (plot twist: this didn’t work).

J doesn’t want too much bend in the shoulder-in, as the exercise is not about bend as much as it is about the connection on the outside rein. Instead, he wanted Thunder more active, more connected into my outside rein, softer on the inside rein, and a lot rounder. As we push into shoulder-in I tend to forget everything and concentrate only on getting the angle, thus losing the activity, throughness and connection, with the result that when I put my leg on for the movement he immediately slacks off by losing his hindquarters and throwing up his head.

So our homework there is to ride the transition from straight to shoulder-in as just that – a transition, during which the activity and connection must be maintained. J also mentioned that riding him a little lower and deeper – longer in the neck, but with the poll down more – helps to supple and stretch him rather than fighting with him in a perfect competition frame. It’s also vital that I ride him in the right angle. He needs to be so rhythmic in the angle and so soft and supple in the connection – not over bent, but soft – that I could even ride him in shoulder-in right while bending his spine to the left, essentially turning the movement into renvers.

On the subject of the trot, J also warned against making him run. He needs to be more active now without being faster – I need to slow the legs down to create a collected rhythm.

He also needs to stretch down significantly more, but this he does really nicely at home. At home he’ll take his nose to the floor – his relaxation levels at other venues always negatively affect his connection and ability to stretch.

This was evident when he decided to have an enormous spook in the middle of the short side, resulting in a hilarious screenshot and a few dry comments from J.

Moving on to the canter, first we worked on the collected walk. J says that it’s impossible to ride a good transition to collected canter unless the collected walk is outstanding. He needed to take significantly shorter steps, without losing the activity, and be softer and more yielding in the bridle as well instead of going against the hand. Only once the walk was perfect were we allowed to canter. The canter itself had to be much straighter as I tend to permanently ride him in too much inside bend. Once the canter is straight, the transition to walk can be through and balanced.

I was really happy about how Thunder behaved. He was a bit tense and a bit behind my leg, but the long drive had much to do with that, and he was trying very hard as he always is. I am a bit disappointed that the shoulder-in is still a problem but now we have more tools to work on it. I asked J if we were making progress, though, and he seemed to think we were doing just fine.

After the lesson I asked J what we should be doing show-wise this year and he said that the priority with competitions is to get him more relaxed. So the more small cheap local shows we can do, the better. I haven’t renewed our memberships so we’ll be doing training shows for a while – we may end up having to do all our grading points again, but that’s all right.

Well with my soul, dancing with my horse. Glory to the King.

Small Victories

This week was… incredible.

It was pony camp, which I always love because I get more than that single golden half-hour once a week with each child. I get a chance to listen. I get a chance to learn.

We had many kids, for us (12? 13? I’m honestly not sure) and I can confidently say they all impressed me this week. For sure some of them got told off rather sternly but they are all lights in the world. They all have their futures thrown wide before them and the knowledge that I had a whole week with them – a week that God could use to influence their lives – was a tremendous thing. Terrifying at times, but tremendous.

Bible study was something else. The first three days felt like they weren’t really going anywhere – I was preaching the Gospel, and they were listening (most of the time) like good little children. But such is Bible study, I’m finding. It takes a while to build the trust that makes it a conversation. On the last day, we ended up running 45 minutes long because the kids weren’t running out of questions. We sat together and had an open, candid, non-judgmental, honest and sincere discussion about God. Jesus was there and the Holy Spirit was working! It was a day that reminded me of what I’m here for.

Of course, much was learned about horses, too. We rode bareback (a first for most of the kids) and played that game where you give each child a coin under each lower thigh and the kid who manages to keep their coins the longest wins. This was to much hilarity, but regrettably, we lost almost all of the coins in the arena sand.

We also learned how to turn out a pony, to varied success. This was less of a hit with some of the boys, but for the most part they pulled together and did some rather stellar work. Trooper especially looked more dashing than I expected.

We also learned about the points of the horse, parts of the saddle and bridle, and colours and markings. The ponies were as usual entirely accepting of having stickers stuck all over them.

They also did an awesome job painting and decorating all our jumps,

and Kindness Rocks, which are now littered all over the yard. Some have rather imaginative spelling (and others are teetering precariously on top of poles, on the brink of falling upon somebody’s head like a bolt of divine inspiration) but they make me smile.

We jumped some jumps (pictured: head groom L winning at this) and limbo’d under others (not pictured: head groom L falling on her head trying to win at this).

There were no falls or serious injuries at all this pony camp, to my great relief. One kid did cut his finger on the fence, whereupon it bled magnificently, but it was nothing that making a big fuss, pulling on my blue gloves and sticking a Star Wars plaster couldn’t fix. I also got kicked halfway across the arena (walked behind a sleeping pony and touched its bum like an idiot) but luckily I went flying and skidded several metres so that seems to have taken the worst of the impact out of it. Young muscles do have their advantages.

The week culminated in today’s training show, our first ever. It was an outrageous success – by the grace of God. Literally. He was so with us. And I have no pictures. Sorry.

We opened with Scripture reading, a la Lipizzaners, by bringing in old Skye and reading Job 39:19-25. Not gonna lie, standing next to my brave old friend and facing the crowd (more than 80 people – it was quite the crowd) and the powerful words straight from my God’s mouth rolling over us, I got a little teary-eyed.

The POG class was enormous and consisted of basically everyone whether they could jump or not. But I only had two on the lead rein and everyone else remembered their track perfectly, even if they walked the whole thing. Lulu, Trooper (yes – the 3yo; ridden off lead by a 6yo kiddie. He was good except once he walked into an upright and it fell over), Stardust, Midas, Sunè, Renè, and Thunder all packed their kids around without putting a toe wrong. Starlight had a spook and cantered off causing a little panic, but the kid got her back and she was fine after that.

Lisna and E also trotted around the POG and 20cm effortlessly. Lisna didn’t look at a thing and E handled first-show nerves brilliantly.

Most notably, David and his person went around the POG in hand. A mighty feat considering all the fears that horse had to conquer to get there. I gave him a show name and it says everything about him: Facing the Giants. He has faced some incredible Goliaths.

The 20cm was more of the same, with the addition of Savanna and her teenager. Savanna has been SO naughty of late (used to following other ponies over jumps + now feeling rather too good = naughty) but she was super and her teenager rode her really, really well for clear rounds.

Rain and Arwen also popped around the 20cm and 30cm, to general applause. Arwen also packed another rider who she’s never seen before in her life around the 60cm and 70cm, kicking all of our bums in the process. That’s the dragonbeast for you. I love that about my dance partners – they can dance with me one day and carry random people around the next.

In the 40cm, Destiny got his first jumping win under his mom. Sunè and her kid also popped around beautifully and Starlight came second with a kid that will hopefully become her kid eventually.

In the 50cm, Liana and her kid charged around brilliantly for second place. Midas and his new little rider had their first show together and came third, and Pennie’s mom G jumped her young horse, Saartjie, for first place. When G got Saartjie about a year ago the pony had never seen a fence before in its life and I’ve never been on her so I am VERY chuffed with both. K and Renè also had a great clear round.

It was more of the same in the 60cm, with Arwen first, Saartjie second and Lancelot third – albeit having a rather gawky round because I was in the dressage saddle (the others were all taken) and mainly focused on not losing my stirrups. Lancey was amazing for the whole thing, jumping all clear rounds. We were all expecting Vastrap to win because he is awesome but he got a bit wild and threw in a stop – luckily for his child because I don’t think she could have sat the only distance available to him at that pace. He won the 70cm, with Lancey second and Arwen third.

The 80cm was only Pennie and G and Jamaica and I, and Maicy totally showed me again why I lease him. I was exhausted by this point and just sort of hung on and pointed him at the jumps. The distances were ugly, the rhythm was off, and we’d had one minute to warm up – but Jamaica just took me over each fence despite my mistakes. Good boy. He won it despite a rail down because Pennie got somewhat overexcited and crashed through a bunch of jumps.

The last class was called the 85cm but only because I didn’t want to say out loud that Jamaica and I were jumping a 90cm track. I needn’t have worried, though. Jamaica was superb. Both G and I had a pole down but Pennie was like 15 seconds faster so they won.

I am so happy with it – all of it. I feel so honoured to be among this group of horses and riders and to feel the buzz that was at this stableyard today. It’s more than just a good atmosphere brought about by mutual goodwill. It’s in me but not of me. It’s the Holy Spirit at work.

This evening I had one last job – herding the members of field A (Arwen’s group) back to their field, which was being used as a warmup. It was a short way along the corridor so I elected to just shepherd them along rather than catching each one. I whistled them up and Arwen led the charge, snorting fire. Magic caught on and started bucking in the neighbouring field and then suddenly they were all running – thirty-one shining, happy horses – each a thunder-clothed collection of graceful curves bursting with life and exuberance, the sky and earth trembling with the power of them. I was caught breathless in the whirlwind of it, and I understood what the psalmist meant when he said: Let everything that has breath praise the name of the Lord.

No eye has seen what He has prepared for us, but perhaps sometimes we catch the edge of Heaven’s melody, curling on the cusp of hearing.

Thank You Father. Glory to the King.

Show Photos

HOY pics by Meilleur Ami Photography; SANESA pics by CanterPix

Prepare to be spammed: I have been holding off on show photos despite being something of a media junkie, and then the SANESA photographers were cheap and good, and then the HOY photos arrived, and now I just have so many pretty pony pictures.

First up, HOY. Because this photo might just be my favourite one of Arwen to date. This was the general breed show hack class that we almost placed in because this horse is amazing.

Arwen1a

You won’t believe how much work went into this picture or how freaked out I was. Totally worth it.

Now for Midas at HOY.

Midas1a

His connection was still so dodgy here.

Midas2a

It was so nice to be able to see the judge past the horse for a change.

And then Sunè at HOY, being grand champion in her class of one, but taking the opportunity to exhibit her bombproofness anyway.

Sune1a

And now for SANESA, starting with adorkable Lancey.

Lancelot1
ah, the graceful Arabian

One day he’ll know what legs are for and become more photogenic.

Midas doesn’t need to learn anything about what knees are for.

Midas1

Or anything about being photogenic.

Midas2

And now I present to you one naughty Appaloosa being buried to a lot of fences…

Jamaica2
love this angle
Jamaica5
so I kinda like the deep spots and he is tolerant
Jamaica7
also he tolerates me hanging on his poor face
Jamaica8
hunting the next fence
Jamaica11
somebody wants to jump bigger (clue: not me)
Jamaica10
good boy Maica

Too blessed to express. 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.

20m x 60m = wonderful

I’ve wanted this for so long, and it is so worth waiting for. Today, I got to ride on a flat level surface that wasn’t pounding my poor horses’ joints into oblivion. There were no holes. There was no slipping. There weren’t any other horses in the way! Just 20x60m of amazing. Thanks Dad, Mutterer – and Lord!

just look at it

I was so excited I didn’t even want to use the lunging ring, so I lunged Xave in the dressage arena instead. He was completely wild but happily went around in circles (at light speed). New arena is apparently spooky if you are a baby dumb-blood (I didn’t even come up with that – it’s what the dentists calls them, usually just after Xave tries to jump on his head). Apart from one very rude kick at me as I sent him off, he was actually fairly polite about being worried. Also, he is freakishly gorgeous, did you notice?

light speed trotting feat. fancy new poll relief bridle

I warmed Arwie up in it before jumping and she didn’t spook at all, although she was excited and pulling. Possibly also a by-product of getting last week off. She proceeded to jump a full 85cm course with flair, which felt amazing. We’re getting somewhere!

Lancelot also schooled in it and was impressively calm, and Midas was just as good and practiced both his tests for Saturday really well. It’s only Prelim 1 and 2 but it was wonderful to be able to school the movements exactly as they’ll be in the show arena. He was brilliant. He’ll do really well if he shuts up and concentrates.

Much of the day was taken up in last-minute practices for the kiddies who are showing heifers on Wednesday. In case anyone out there didn’t know, cows are amazingly beautiful. Particularly Jerseys.

majestic moo

Sunè schooled beautifully in the new arena too. She’s still annoyingly one-sided, which irks me mostly because I’m not used to it. It’s one of the first things I try to fix on mine. Bombproof as they come, though. I look forward to her working riding class this weekend.

I also turned Magic out in the new arena in an attempt to let him get used to it without any chance of launching me into the stratosphere. This was a terrible idea. He bolted up and down screaming until I came over and petted him, and then he walked around on a lead as quietly as can be, not spooking at anything. I guess we’ll see how tomorrow goes.

It was a joy to teach in the dressage; the ponies appreciated the easier footing, the riders appreciated the space, and I appreciated being close to the house (and water/food/equipment/loo). My voice, though, is totally cooked. It was fit for shouting across a 15x35m oval, not for this.

working students being supervised by Ice doggy

After the chaos, just before sunset when the light was turning to molten gold and peace filled every breath, I went out to lunge Eagle (who was great) and breathe in the beauty. The reality. The truth of how much we all are loved.

I deserve death. Instead, I get blessings. Life. The ultimate sacrifice from the One I betrayed.

I pray that every time I step onto that big sand rectangle, it reminds me of that.

Glory to the King.

where miracles happen