Tremendous Photo Dump

So the good news is that we survived the unadulterated chaos that was this week.

thanks in no small part to puppy kisses

The better news is, next weekend is dressage with Destiny (walk/trot under his mom), Renè (Prelim under K), Arwie (Elementary 4 and 5) and Thunder (Prelim 2 and 3). I can’t wait.

Eagle has accepted his job as the steady hack with aplomb. He can still have the odd little spook or sticky moment, but, well. He was backed in March, after all.

His mom is also back on him now that she’s recovered from her tumble, and shows admirable handling of the expected nerves. Eagle, obviously, is being perfect. He has developed a new habit of gaping and hanging on the hand a little in his downwards, so we’ll play with different snaffles and see if something else is more agreeable.

Firepaw (from Warriors) and Meatlug (from How to Train Your Dragon) are adorable, but appearances are deceiving.

Lady Erin and I started to talk about the box. She did have one warmblood tantrum about it, but she’s currently, like, 12.2hh, so it didn’t go anywhere.

This adorable child was way more amused with riding bareback than Lullaby was with being ridden bareback.

The kid that rides Midas has put herself on a quest to be good without stirrups. I think she’s pretty good already.

Ash was mysteriously sick for a day. She ran a fever and just looked a bit off and I panicked and basically gave her everything I could think of, and she was fine by lunch. Nothing ever came of it, so that’s a bit of a mystery, but it seems like a fairly benign one.

In anticipation of his competitive debut, Destiny got in the box. He was exceedingly well-mannered and cooperative, I’m pleased to report.

I love these two round dressagey butts.

Blizzard graduated to the long-lines. He has a strangely fussy little mouth, but his teeth are done so it’s kinda just a matter of being patient and letting him learn to deal. He is very obedient and will probably only ever be ridden on a loose rein in his hacking future, so I’m not losing sleep over it.


Trooper is on a six-week semi-hiatus from schooling and jumping. The little chap is only three and a half and we already have all his basics and little tiny jumps installed, so he deserves a break. In the meantime he goes on hacks when I have nobody else to use.

In my continuing quest to get my wayward heels back under my hips where they belong, I’ve been experimenting with stirrup lengths. It seems the Wintec has the effect of ever-so-slightly pulling my leg forward because of the position of the stirrup bar in relation to the deepest point of the seat. We’ve gotten around this by doing lots and lots of work without stirrups so that I get used to sitting right and my body doesn’t get to think of excuses to do its own thing.

It appears I am finally conquering the tension through my hips, so when relaxed and unrestrained, I manage to sit like a human being at last.

Skinny Savanna is already so much fatter. The magic of ad-lib grass and a bit of balancer does it again and it makes my heart happy as she begins to thrive.

She has been SO naughty though, running out at every fence she can with her kid. I think the adjustment from huge groups all going around together at her previous yard, down to private lessons or two in a lesson here, have been a bit of a shock for them both. She’s in half training with me now so we’ll get it sorted.

It’s a bit of a menagerie around here.

Our biggest beginner group yet: five, through from dad down to five-year-old little sister. Lisna, Starlight, Lulu, Sunè, and Stardust have been impeccable.

Milady has put on so much weight this month it’s almost scary. She was about a 3/10 when we weaned Lady Erin and now she’s about 6/10. K has started to ride her for me so that I can use her as a trail horse and schoolie until she’s in foal again, whenever that may be.

She has the gentlest spirit. ❤

Typically, in trying to correct one flaw, I’ve created another. Now my heels camp out somewhere three miles behind me while I perch. I’ll find the balance. I have a patient dance partner.

Ash is loving the hack life. She’ll be terribly useful in the school once her tendon rehab is complete.

After much desensitising, I finally put a leg over Blizzard. He was, as you can see, pretty cool about it. Just the way I like it.

This little one got to try out our brand-new 17m lunging ring in the brief window between its being built and being recruited as turnout for Champagne until she settles down. I love it. It even has fancy slanting sides so the youngsters can quit whacking my knees on the fence.

Nugget is recovering very nicely. The plan is for her to move in with Magic once she’s regained the use of her neck fully. I’m hoping his love and joie de vivre will rub off on her, and he really, really missed Exavior.

For now, the tack boxes have been stolen to be a table for her cheeky little majesty.

After weeks of improvement, Arwen’s canter-walks have gone down the drain again a little. On the bright side, we suddenly have shoulder-in and rein back. Poor Arwen – Elementary is tough when neither of us really know what we’re doing at the level yet. Thunder has it easy by comparison. For now.

Life with Champagne has been a little interesting, but she is settling one day at a time. She’s used to very little turnout, but seems to settle much better outside and fret quite a bit in the stable. The poor girl is extremely anxious about basically everything – I don’t understand how she can maintain that level of anxiety for so long. We’ll sort it out.

Dusty cannot understand her new buddy. So young, so well-bred, so well cared for, so sound, so gorgeous. What does she have to worry about?

Jump judged today at coach K’s family’s event and realised just how much I miss everything about eventing. Someday.

Praying for a peaceful next week, but ready to see God’s will in it, whatever it is. Glory to the King.

SANESA Q4

Last qualifier of the year, and we found ourselves having a weekend full of exceptional performances from our faithful steeds.

he’s so good even his halo is straight and narrow

St. Vastrap was his reliable self, despite putting in a cheeky stop during a practice last week – most unlike him. He and his kid blasted around the speed for a third place, then had an unlucky pole in the competition for seventh. They’re going to finals!
This little team has everything they need to go to Nationals, but VT’s kid will need to up her game in terms of focus in the arena itself and riding the plan we work out. All part of growing as a very hard-working and promising little athlete, riding a pony in a million.

Zorro and Z-kid had a wonderful qualifier, thanks to huge personal growth and super riding from Z-kid, which has resulted in Zorro going better than he ever has. They had a silly pole in the competition, but came back strong for fourth in the speed, then jumped a lovely clear for second in the working hunter. They’ll also be headed for finals in working hunter if I have it right.

Liana and her kid had by far their best show yet, even if that didn’t earn them any ribbons. Ana was the quietest she’s been and kiddo rode very well. Pony overjumped an oxer in their first jumping class, sending kiddo onto her neck, but they recovered well, just getting penalties for circling. A mature decision from the rider, as it was the only way to negotiate the next fence safely. They were clear in the ideal time, but – get this – too slow for a place. Up till recently, Ana didn’t know slow was a thing.

Continuing on the quiet and well-behaved theme for the day, Liana was wonderful in the prix caprilli and kiddo rode so accurately, getting 67.72% and third place.

old photo because I have no media and also because he’s so handsome

K and Thunny were busy winning their equitation test when the GPS malfunctioned and they jumped the same fence twice in fine style. A bummer for K, but she handled it with enormous grace. They upped their dressage score, too, getting 59.16 and 62.5 despite all the monsters beside the arena. I think we finally have the leads mastered.

Lullaby and the tiny tot rode in the midst of great chaos – I was riding dressage as their course opened for walking. Usually I’d have K walk with her, but tiny tot speaks no English and K speaks no Afrikaans, so yeah. I watched the kid before us and then dragged Lulu around in more or less the right direction, and tiny tot wasn’t worried (her poor parents were less blasè about it), so it added up to a positive experience but she was out of the ribbons. I think we could have done better, but I also think I can’t teleport. Such is SANESA. I would happily have skipped Midas’s test but I can’t let Lancey’s young owner down so there you have it.

Speaking of Midas pony, he wasn’t really on his game this weekend, but to be fair to him the errors we had in showjumping were mostly my fault. I feel sorry for him dragging my fatness over fences so I don’t really jump him myself at home, and I kept panicking and chasing him at distances he didn’t have to try and make. We had two poles in the speed and one in the ideal time, but he was dead honest. So we didn’t get our showjumping goals of going clear but I’m not worried. Pony is a bit bored at the height too, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Dressage was in the most appalling location – the arena appears to have been cut right out of a wood of young poplars, and the wind was howling, causing the whole thing to rustle and wave about most alarmingly. Midas never actually jumped but he was drifting, tense, and hollow in that corner. Having five minutes to warm up didn’t help either. Still, we had 65 and 67.5, so that’s not horrible. Maybe at finals I can finally warm the poor chap up for a change.

Not warming up at all worked brilliantly for Lancey, however. K saddled him up, led him to the show arena, and held him while I rode the test on Midas; Lancey’s warmup consisted of walking around to the judge. He greatly exceeded my expectations. I thought he’d be dreadful, what with the howling bush monsters and all, but he actually just had a little look as we walked around and then paid them no attention at all. He was so focused, probably because I hadn’t had time to cook his brain beforehand. He tied first with Midas in the second test with 65% and had 67.3% in the first one.

His jumping was improved albeit still rather erratic. He had a pole and a stop at the combination in the first class, once again, but this time I jumped the first element again and thus we finished with the eight penalties. The second class had the most dreadful fillers throughout and I quickly scratched my goal of getting no stops – everything was stopping. I’d be happy just to get him round. Sure enough he had one stop at number four, but to my amazement it was because of a wiggly approach and really had little to do with the fillers. He didn’t look at a single thing for the rest of the track. It was a huge lightbulb moment for him. “Oooh, all I have to do is jump the jumps!” Ya think, Lancey?

I was VERY impressed with the little chap. He tries so hard.

another old photo, but at least now he has a loin

Last but not least, Jamaica in the 80cm. After the debacle we had last time, I wasn’t sure whether or not to expect an utter disaster. He felt forward in the warm up but that could have been my imagination. We did about four thousand canter-walk transitions after the jumps, then went in to the course with all the scary fillers, white-knuckled and white-faced. I nearly died when he had a big look at number one and all I could get my frozen limbs to do was feebly wave my stick, but he jumped. Then after that it was just perfect – from Jamaica, anyway.

I hung on his face and made him canter as if we were doing flatwork, adding strides with wild abandon, burying him to fence after fence and every single time he patiently tucked up his little black knees and popped over without any fuss. I don’t know how, but he didn’t even take a pole. No bucking, no running away, he just sweetly hauled my sorry behind around like the quiet old packer he actually really isn’t – a six-year-old remedial problem horse with a sketchy background.

Who’d have thought it? Eighteen months ago he was somersaulting over a fence and breaking his shoulder. Six months ago he was handstanding his child off and breaking her shoulder. One month ago he was bucking and bolting. Today, he is helping, fence by willing fence, to lay the bricks that repair my potholed, ripped and ruined path to riding confidence. Who’d have thought it? I sure didn’t!

Above all we ask or imagine, my God is faithful, my God is powerful, and my God – oh, you have no idea how my God is in charge!

Glory to the KING!

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.

SANESA Q3

Well, firstly, this show was amazing. I’m so proud of how hard my students all tried, and their hard work and talent is paying off. The ponies were super and God was with us, as always. Even the venue, which I was ranting about last time, really stepped up its game and I was suitably impressed. It ran really well for all concerned. We had our hiccups, but we all went home safe, sound and satisfied.

Saturday kicked off the qualifier with all the little primary school riders, who were brilliant. Liana and her child had two main goals: remember the course, and don’t fall off. Both were achieved with resounding success even though the poor child’s last practice before the show on Friday night included a nosedive in front of a fence. Kids are made of rubber, so this kid just bounced right back and they jumped great. Liana got quite hot in her first class (50cm showjumping) so the kid showed huge maturity in pulling her out and making a circle. They got penalties for that, but it definitely kept things safe and under control, for which they were rewarded with a big fat blue ribbon in their ideal time class.

They also showed a great improvement in their Prix Caprilli scores, which neither of them like very much, but it’s good for both of their training so I’m chuffed.

Liana1

Meanwhile, having to cope largely by herself as I ran from calling a test to coaching Liana’s kid to dragging Lulu about on the lead rein, Vastrap and his kid carried on happily by themselves. I only managed to watch one of their classes (listening to the announcer in their other class while I was trotting around the dressage myself on Midas), but I’m glad I did because it was brilliant. VT showed no ill effects after his tying-up episode, demonstrated by a resounding second place in their competitive A2 speed class. They were fourth in the competition round and as happy as piggies in poo. This combination has the necessary qualifiers to go to Gauteng Finals, so that’s pretty awesome.

Vastrap1

Our next little primary school rider was the littlest of all of them, a truly adorable five-year-old riding at her first show. She was doing POG equitation on the lead rein, accompanied by myself and dear old Lullaby. Dear old Lullaby absolutely LAUNCHED herself over the first ground pole, but the kid sat it out just fine and even remembered her little course for third in her 9-and-under class of 11 kids. Pretty impressive. Lulu was super well behaved apart from that, um, little moment, so hopefully there will be a whole horde of kiddos attending the next one with their equine teacher.

Lulu1
melting the judge’s bones with cuteness

In light of the little kids’ successes, the high school kids had a lot to live up to, but they absolutely knocked it out of the park. K and Thunder had dressage on Saturday and equitation on Sunday. Thunny was much less tense than normal and got lots of “obedient” comments in Prelim 3 and 4, but regrettably they got a little lost with their canter leads and the 6’s and 7’s of their walk/trot work got disappointed by the 4.5’s and 5’s of their canter work. It was still good enough for fourth place. Their equitation also got them a placing with some lovely comments in a very competitive class.

Thunder1
no touchy trotting poles

Zorro started his show by flinging Z-kid’s family’s gardener-cum-groom into the air (according to eyewitness; I’m not sure how that happened), dislocating the poor man’s thumb rather painfully in the process. I patched him up (perhaps a little over-enthusiastically) and sent him off to hospital, but at least Zorro appeared to have used up all his naughty for the day. He and Z-kid headed into their working hunter without me, while I was calling K’s tests, so I was sweating for them as I heard the announcer call them in over my shouting, but it was totally unnecessary. Zorro wiggled down to the first fence and Z-kid had had enough of his nonsense and gave him a hiding he won’t forget. He didn’t offer up a single wiggle for the rest of the show, getting first in the working hunter, third in the competition, and two poles down in the A2 speed (he took the “speed” part rather seriously). This combination just goes from strength to strength. The poor groom was very stoical about it all.

Pennie and G also started their qualifier with working hunter, and proceeded to have another show without any stops at all. When Pennie doesn’t stop, she places. This little mare is just the best showjumper I know. She had second place in the working hunter, won both her showjumping classes at 90cm by absolute streets, and came second in equitation despite an unlucky pole. They’ll also probably get to Finals, so far for both WH and EQ.

Pennie1

That leaves my crew, who were also impressive. Midas started my personal weekend off with a bang when, with a total of three and a half minutes’ warmup (part of which was spent spooking at a horse in a nearby field that chose that moment to completely lose its snot), he scored first 60.8% in Prelim 3 and then 68.4% in Prelim 4. It’s a personal best for the both of us, and considering the poor little chap was quite stressed out at the time, I’m rather chuffed.

He continued to be quite wonderful for his showjumping, winning both 60cm classes in fine style. Admittedly this was not very hard considering his competition consisted of one other rider and Lancey, but he still went clear and quiet in the ideal time and clear and quick in the A2 speed. I made him take some very tight turns in the speed, more as an educational exercise than anything else, and apparently tight turns ain’t no thing if you’re 13.1.

Lancey jumped both 60cm classes as well; I entered 60 as a precautionary measure since I thought the buzz that is SANESA might scramble his little Arabian brain, but I needn’t have worried. He came out totally ready to do his job and did it well over the first eight fences of the first class. Then both of us had a lapse of concentration, took the pole at number nine, climbed through 10A and ran out at 10B. I brought him back over 10B by itself like a newb so we had the technical elimination but that’s what happens when you didn’t get a competitive education.

His second class, though, was wonderful. We both focused and he put in his first totally clear round in a long time, not even breathing on a single pole and brave to every last fence, so that ended us on a high note.

Jamaica1
this picture makes me so happy

Then came the 80cm, which looks ridiculously small in this picture for some reason, and I was more or less OK until Jamaica landed from the oxer in the warmup and then took off like a shot. He made it all the way outside the arena and through a bunch of unwitting spectators (none were harmed in the making of this episode of Morning Star Madness) before I managed to stop him. I brought him back and popped him over it again and he was OK, so I thought it was a once-off right up until we were actually in the arena and our bell had gone. I asked for canter and I got several rather melodramatic handstands instead.

The last time this thing bucked with a rider, bones were broken. I hung on for dear life, or didn’t since that never seems to work, instead choosing to try and pull his head up for dear life. Mercifully, that did work. He stopped, I stopped, I stared at the judge in panic and in that wobbly moment I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to putting my hand up and retiring. I’m still not really sure why I didn’t. Instead we cantered another circle and headed for the next jump, reciting. “The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want.” The first two were OK. He landed from number three and took off again down the related distance to number four; I pulled him off it and circled desperately because I was fairly convinced I was going to die. We scraped over that, and then we had something like control for a while again, although I made it all the way through Psalm 23 (rather loudly over the combination) by number ten. Then I panicked because I had run out of psalm, but luckily Jamaica had run out of steam and we made it. It may just have been the most terrifying showjumping class I’ve ever ridden, but on the plus side, the height was not the problem. Also, stopping was never in the equation. He jumped everything without any question. It was all the galloping and bucking in between that worried me.

I sort of schooled him around for a bit before the second class and again strongly considered scratching from it, but again didn’t. It took every shred of guts I had, and even then it was only by the grace of God that we walked back into the arena, but by then he’d gotten a very solid one-rein stop which had made him rethink his life choices and settled down from whatever had worried him so much, so he was himself again. Looking at the pictures later, I realised I buried that poor animal to every single fence and he patiently jumped every single fence carefully and quietly. This is why I lease this beast. He’s rather funny-looking and has the odd psychotic break, but at the end of the day he jumps the first time every time and I can cope with his drama. He’s the one thing that my beloved Magic just isn’t – resilient to rider error. I can mess up as much as I please and he’ll still jump.

He jumped clear, which dismayed me a little because it meant I had to go back in and do it all over again for the jump-off. By this point, Jamaica was completely chilled and he was holding my hand again. The other rider had a very quick mare and they were good and I was still kinda panicking so any form of being competitive wasn’t in the equation at all. Then, rather unluckily, the other mare crashed straight through the first fence and I figured I may as well try since I had hopefully used up my near-death experiences for the day. (Did I mention how nerves exaggerate a situation?) So he popped around clear and slightly faster than slug-esque, and we got a ribbon. Which was nice.

It was, in many ways, a tough qualifier for all of us and it challenged all of our patience and courage. It was our busiest yet, but our riders absolutely rose to face every giant that met them and they won.

Blessed to be where I am, and most undeservedly so. Glory to the King.

Jamaica1

Long Hack

After SANESA and with the long weekend looming, everyone’s been in a bit of a holiday mood.


And around here, that means only one thing:


Hacking!

I think my kids must hate me because I’m still not so happy with cantering with kids on hacks, but this managed to be a lot of fun for all concerned, regardless.

We headed off in a bunch: L on Stardust, Sunè and her adorable kid, Liana and her kid, Vastrap and his kid and Lullaby bringing up the rear, peeved at having to pack my fat behind around.

Accompanied, as always, by the ever-faithful Ice. How he manages to keep up on those little legs, not to mention running after all the fieldmice and smells that catch his fancy, nobody knows. But I love that he’s always right beside us.

Sunè is just a superstar. Her kid is only eight and tends to get distracted and forget where he’s going, instead choosing to drop the reins and admire the view, but Sunè never minds being left behind and just ambles patiently along. Shouts of “Catch up, buddy!” spur the kiddo to flap his legs and Sunè happily canters to the middle of the ride and then flops back into walk without being asked.


Needless to say, spooking isn’t even in her vocabulary.

Isn’t creation amazing? It always awes me that God didn’t just make a world that was functional and complex and amazingly engineered down to its last atom, down to the deepest miracles of science. It would have been enough if the world was just incredible, if creation provided us as creatures only with nourishment and necessities. But because He’s a God of love, an Artist and a bit of a Poet sometimes, He didn’t just make the world good. He made it beautiful.

Dusty, of course, was her reliable little self – albeit pulling somewhat on the way home. The dentist saw her today and sorted out her bit seats so he said that’ll help but honestly I think she was just kinda excited.

Even Liana and Vastrap, traditionally hot on hacks, plopped along very happily and enjoyed the view.

It’s a beautiful thing to be a kid with a good chestnut mare and miles upon miles of open space at your disposal. I know because I was that kid. Nostalgia.

A good little bay mare will do fine, too.

Look at those little faces. If you want to make your kid happy, buy them a good Nooitie.

Glory to the King.

SANESA Q2

For this show I don’t have to apologise for lack of media, because Fine Photography was there and stunning photos will follow!

On Friday evening, I only got home at one in the morning. Despite being 20, this was not because I was out doing whatever it is that young people do in an attempt to forget/have fun/get themselves killed. Nope. I was playing tagalong to the real medics, my second ever volunteering shift. Isn’t it amazing how God sends us to do things we’d never ever dream of ourselves doing, and then we find a deep happiness in it? If you had told me a year ago that I’d be having the time of my life bundling people up in Emergency Rescue Blankets (looks like tinfoil) and sticking plasters on fingers, I would never have believed you.

Yet there I was. And there I was on Saturday morning, somewhat bleary-eyed and en route to a busy SANESA Q2. This was the qualifier where snot got real: you need three qualifying rounds (placings in the top eight) to go to Finals and with only four qualifiers, that turns up the heat from the second one onwards.

The ponies and riders, however, stepped up and delivered.

Vastrap and his kiddo blazed through their accumulator class with the adrenaline pumping so high that kiddo clean forgot about fence number eight and blasted right past it. At the dismayed cries from the crowd, she went back and popped over without circling, still managing to finish in the top eight.

They turned and burned in their competition class and placed third in very good company. The little rider is super, but it has to be said that VT is one in a million.

Pennie and G had a fantastic show. They kicked it off by placing fourth in the accumulator. An unlucky pole in the competition landed them just out of the placings, but they came back to win their equitation and working hunter classes. Pennie didn’t stop even once, so apparently my rude bellows of “SMACK THE PONY” from outside the warmup arena were effective (albeit badly received by the general public).

A similar approach with Zorro also started to take effect. Poor Z-kid was nervous in the first class and got lost; a goodly pep-talk and much guts from her later, she handled Zorro’s cheekiness in the second class well, getting him around with eight penalties. By working hunter time he was being a model citizen and popped over everything without looking back, placing second. I am immeasurably proud of this young lady for getting herself up off the floor the way she did.

K was nervous for this show and Thunder reciprocated by being tense and shouty, but she kept it together and he was as honest as the day, plopping around his 60cm equitation class like a good chap for first place. Their dressage unfortunately was unnecessarily tense, possibly because they only arrived at the warm up ten minutes before their ride time and I was running around after the little kids and didn’t get much time to spend with them. Such is the lot of my teenagers, I’m afraid. Still, they had a very respectable 58% and 60%, scores that are already promising and can be hugely improved on.

(Oh, and that handsome chap in the photo? That’s my dad. Hands off.)

Liana was a bit hot on the day but was good to her kid and very obedient. There was a minor miscommunication between the kid and the pony regarding which way to turn after the last fence during the first class, resulting in the kid taking an unscheduled dismount. She had the discretion to do this after the finish flags, though, so they placed seventh anyway. She stuck on during the second class but got a little lost, circling for four penalties and landing just outside the placings.

Her prix caprilli test was superb – very accurate and focused – but they were eliminated for going in with boots. I cannot pretend to blame that mistake on sleep deprivation, and I’ll be kicking myself for it for a long, long time. It’s on me and I feel properly bad about it, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that the kiddo rode awesomely.

Last but not least, little Midas was superb. We were late and missed his first jumping class, so I booted the poor boy into the indoor warmup arena with moments to spare before his second class and he just dealt with it and did his job. He popped around his course without turning a hair and finished second, 0.04 seconds behind the winner.

His dressage felt really steady and he got lots of “willing and obedient” comments, the best ones you get. He scored 62% and 64%, with which I am totally satisfied.

The weekend was a huge success, and all my kiddies learnt, rode well, worked together and have a chance of going to finals as a bonus, so it’s well worth the exhaustion looming over my head right now. Further up and further in: Jesus is taking us closer to Him with every step, tiring or not.

Glory to the King.

Joy

I have SANESA last weekend to recap, but right now I just want to share some snippets of Morning Star Stables life that are just so beautiful.

There is something incredible about seeing the Holy Spirit at work. His fruits are all around us if I can only see them.

God is at work at this yard and in me. And a lot of it is hard and tough and heartbreaking, but every moment of surrender takes me one step closer.


Jesus is the light behind our eyes.


He is real, He is love, and He is in us.




Glory to the King.