A Taste of Summer

Summer and the return of beauty and freshness and flies and heat. The horses spend all day swatting at bugs and I sweat through my hair, but it’s worth it for the return of four of my favourite things: green grass, gleaming summer coats, the smell after rain, and summer sunrises.

favourite tree

There are little goslings and unreasonably aggressive geese everywhere. The occasional fresh breeze brings the hope of the first rains, and the earth is expectant, ready to receive it and return its vibrant bounty.

peach blossoms in the township

All the seasons have a purpose, and their turning is the rhythm of the yard. But I’ll readily admit that I’m ready for summertime.

Speaking of time, this is a picture from 23 years ago. This striking young stallion, Pretman Tornado, is now a 27-year-old retiree with multiple showing championships under his belt. He also happens to be Faithy’s grandpa.

He’s Nell’s grandpa too, unsurprising considering she has almost exactly the same head.

This champion broodmare is Faith’s maternal granddam, Hanu. I didn’t know her, but she has a similar look to Faith’s mom, Luna. These are from a Nooitie brochure from 1994, which Faith’s breeder showed me when I stopped in there last week. Faith’s breeder is like my grandpa and spending time there is always soothing.

These faces make my day. ❤ Lancey and Z-kid’s adorable little sister, who may be doing lead rein at SANESA on him next year. He loves her. Of course he does. Lancey loves everyone.

August marked Lancey’s last month in training with me. After eighteen months, he’s finally all ready for his kids, and I love seeing him with them.

Faithy has become so cuddly. We still do bits of groundwork here and there, much of which is rather pointless because she’s basically good with everything. She loves working and she really deals with new things rather well. I think she will be hot, but I do hope she won’t be spooky and fidgety and maybe she’ll even be good to hack one day. Either way, she’s a unicorn. Six more weeks before we start lungeing.

Olive is doing so, so well. K’s mom has been doing lots of walks and pole work and hills and it’s all paid off. She looks practically sound in the field and on the lunge these days. I still refuse to get on – the last thing I need is a Percheron falling on me – but I don’t think it impossible for her to return to ridden work in the future. Either way, she’s pasture sound and a happy camper, so all’s well.

It’s fly mask time again. Identifying fly masks is a perpetual headache – I’m so OCD about it. Each horse must have their mask and must be turned out only in that mask. The permanent marker thing is regrettably fading already. I used to have handy little tags but they’re a lot of effort and kinda expensive.

Milady’s soundness is giving me grey hairs. If she’s not footsore after a trim, she’s touchy around her wither. She’ll have chiro in October and we may end up nailing shoes on after all. She and K are such a good partnership, I really want to try to keep the creature sound for her. It seems a continual struggle with OTTBs. Nooities ftw.

Eagle is in his last month’s training; he and Blizzard go home in October. He’s more than ready. I ride him once a week myself now, scaling down on the professional work so that it doesn’t all fall apart when he goes home.


Thunny and I have had almost seven years together. ❤ We’ve both grown so much.

Even Renè is struggling with her recurrent episodes of tying up. Ah well. Sound horses do not a grateful rider make. When she is sound, though, she’s starting to show K’s hard work and I’m excited for them with next weekend’s dressage.

Lulu is back in fine form thanks to some saddle fitting tweaks, careful feeding and TLC, and she showed this by bucking off a child. Twice. In the same lesson. Ungrateful brat. She got first me and then Vastrap’s kid schooling her for her troubles, but I am so glad she feels better and is behaving like a four-year-old (worse than my four-year-olds, if we’re honest) instead of like a rising eighteen-year-old who’s tired of life.

I have loads of new pictures of Thunny, which need their own post. Basically, he is fabulous; I have overcorrected myself into a hot mess. Sorry Thunny.

Savanna is finally sound again (pls be sound now horsies) and back in action. Lungeing in side reins has helped her understand the contact better, but there’s still a way to go. Her bend is much better and she seems to get that her job is to jump the jump now, although if she has an excuse she’ll still try and run out.

Her condition is so much better it blows me away. I really didn’t think she’d be this bulky and impressive.

Icey says it’s far too hot to lie on his tummy like a normal canine.

Jamaica has been jumping exercises at 90cm for me. Thanks dude. He helps me out a lot, poor soul, and in return I make him do endless mountains of flatwork. He doesn’t like it, but it is paying off – his muscle tone is so much better.

She might buck with the big kids, but little Lullaby is still our best little lead rein pony. This kid made it to Newcomer’s Challenge on her and nobody is more excited about that than me. ❤

I finished my riding today by hacking Midas for the first time in ages. I’d forgotten how little and comfy he is. He was foot perfect.

You may have noticed that the tone around here is a little more cheerful this week. I had managed to burn myself out again. At least it’s happening less frequently these days, and I’m learning what steps to take to keep myself away from the brink.

I’d forgotten how much I love this place and how sure I am that God sent me. That I belong here.

Thank You, Abba. 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

Lay It Down

God is at work in me.

The first time I remember being afraid on a horse was the first time I rode a horse. For those keeping track, that was sixteen years ago. Almost my life, practically speaking. I was a nervous kid from the start; the type of beginner that could only ride two or three of the school ponies, and never got back on any of the ones I fell off of.

Then came years of riding the most random wild bush donkeys. I think if I hadn’t had old Skye, my ever-reliable island of solid ground, the cornerstone of my confidence, I would have quit then. Spooky youngsters. Stallions that bucked and bolted. My second pony spooked relentlessly. My first horse overjumped, stopped, bucked and had frequent meltdowns. (He was also four years old and fresh off the racetrack. Go figure).

Add on top of that all the teenage angst of being an insecure young girl, all the nasty falls and the mistakes and the inexperience that led to accidents, the hit-and-miss, trial-and-error learning, the lack of understanding guidance, the cowboy mentality I forced on myself, the collection of psychotic animals I found myself on in a desperate bid to prove myself – well, I dug my own hole and I was stuck in it for years.

Then I dug it deeper with every attempt at overcoming my demons on my own strength, every effort to overwhelm them with my own demonic qualities: pride, insecurity, dishonesty, cruelty.

Nobody could have fought and lost harder than I did. I hated that fear. It went against everything I wanted, everything I dreamed of, everything I stood for, everything I believed in. It brought me slap-bang against the agonising reality I refused entirely to believe:

I can’t.

Every throb of adrenalin felt like betrayal. Jesus died for you and you can’t even jump 85cm for Him. He said 365 times not to be afraid and you’re afraid 365 days a year. We haven’t been given a spirit of fear.

I felt unworthy. I felt like I’d let God down. I felt like I was inadequate, like I’d never earn my way into the Kingdom of Heaven since I couldn’t even kick my riding nerves.

I was right. I can’t. I’m inadequate. I’ll never earn my way to heaven.

And it’s OK. It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to. Nobody can earn their way to eternal joy; it’s a free gift.

My fists were clenched so hard on fighting they couldn’t open to receive the gift that was waiting.

Somewhere in this year, the tide of the battle against my demons turned. It was subtle at first, but now it gathers momentum, thundering onwards. Obliterating the inevitable setbacks as they come. Rushing forth to crush every new onslaught. Something changed, something fundamental, something vital.

I did the one thing I swore I’d never do. I gave up. I quit. I threw in the towel. I had fought too long, too hard, all for nothing. I lay down my arms, and I let it go. I brought it up against God and realised that on a scale of one to God, it was a pretty tiny problem. I brought it all to Him and laid it down at the cross because I couldn’t bear the choking weight of it anymore.

I admitted defeat. I told Him I couldn’t beat my fear.

You know what He said? He said, I love you anyway. He said, I’m so glad you finally brought this to me. He said, I forgive you. He said, I’ve got this.

He said, Be still, and watch what I can do.

And then inside me, the Lion of Judah rose and roared. And now instead of fighting I walk through a sea of demons with my open hands lifted high, looking past them as they fall before us. Barefoot and defenceless and surrounded by the majesty of my God.

I will never beat my fear. But I surrender to the God Who knew fear intimately, and I watch Him conquer.

I’m still and the Lord fights for me.

And He is winning.

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.

Being a Little Brave

Today started with Revelation 1, and goosebumps down my arms at the terrifying description of our King with stars in His right Hand and a two-edged sword blazing forth from His mouth. Yet this majestic Person, this almighty Ruler of all that is and was and is to come, the Alpha and Omega, reached down to touch a lowly little worm of a man and said: “Fear not”.

This was the theme of my humdrum little day too, apparently. I’m a little shocked at how much God really has achieved in me, how far He’s taken me beyond the very limits of my courage.

I thought losing Nell and Rainbow would end the dream forever. Fear not, He said.

Faith is so fat and happy and shiny right now. And Thunder’s schooling today was amazing – I totally underestimated our big baby.

After a troubled little grey gelding called Dirkie bucked me off onto my hip, turning it several fascinating shades of red and purple, I thought I’d never start another youngster again in my life. Much less any sensitive or nervous ones.

But, Fear not, He said.

When I was hanging in the saddle over Eagle’s back like a sack of potatoes today, he gave this beautiful body-shaking big sigh and I knew he was ready. So I threw a leg over him and he slept for a few minutes while I patted him.

Also Destiny, to date one of the most remedial horses I’ve ever had on the ground, can now do walk/trot/canter large and circles in the dressage. He will reliably spook every session (only on the right rein and only in canter) but this has become rather half-hearted since I called his bluff.

I thought I’d never lead another hack with kids again, not after Jamaica chucked his kid off and broke her arm. The kid never missed a beat; I was thoroughly traumatised. But, Fear not, He said.

Sunè, Lullaby, Stardust
Liana and poor little Sunè again (willing horse…)

After years of falling off stoppers and dealing with poor old Magic’s nerves, I thought I’d never jump the required 85cm for module four, not even on a horse I know. But God said, Fear not, and today jumping an exercise at 85-90cm on Jamaica felt positively routine.

Arwen’s clipping last year was so horrific (like, going across the stable on her hindlegs with enough sedative in her to knock a carthorse flat, kind of horrific) that I thought we were doomed to woolly, overheating misery this winter. But even in this little thing, God spoke power and love.

She ate grass. I clipped. It took half an hour.

first attempt at a chaser clip – coulda been worse

All I ever did was let go.

And watched my star-holding, flame-eyed, blade-speaking King landing the punches straight and square on the jaws of my demons.

Glory to the King.

Sunlands Training SJ 5/3/17

A nice, relaxed little jumping training show was exactly what we needed after a long, stressful HOY. And this outing proved to be exactly that.

It was rather a pleasure to just chuck the tack into the box and take the day off yesterday, instead of frantically scrubbing horses and trying to find my show tie. We were meant to take Starlight, Jamaica and Lancelot, but Destiny chose Thursday to pick a massive fight with Star. She kicked the living daylights out of him and taught him a good lesson, but did end up getting a nice fat bruise on her leg for her trouble. It’s minor, but still a bit sore, so we headed up to Midrand with only the two geldings this morning.

Both, incidentally, boxed really great. I was ready before the Mutterer arrived so, with Mom holding one outside, I just put them both in, tied them up and closed the partitions myself. A major perk of the four-berth – there’s no having to get out and go round to close the partition.

where we going mom?

Sunlands habitually runs a little late, so it follows that I’d arrive super early and there’d be absolutely nobody in the parking lot. We got a good parking spot and leisurely tacked up the two boys, who were very chill. The Mutterer headed off to get our entries done and I took both boys for a walk around the empty warmup. They were looky but I mean, I was leading them both at once, so obviously they weren’t too bad.

but first, lemme take a selfie

When the Mutterer got back, I jumped on Jamaica and set off with a little trepidation. He’s always been very good with me, but I always have it in the back of my head that he was a wicked and unpredictable buck, so I always approach new situations with considerable caution. I’m glad I was careful, but he was stunning. He was maybe a little too relaxed – I had to grab my whip from the Mutterer and give him a few taps to wake him up. I was expecting a rocket launch over the warmup fences, but he barely noticed them.

The only complaint I have is that he felt a bit disobedient and wiggly much of the time. Not naughty exactly, just a little rude – drifting slightly towards the gate, tugging on my hands to try and graze when we were waiting. Every now and then, especially in new situations, he has a tendency to revert back to cheeky-kid’s-pony mode.

Once we were on course, though, this guy was all business. He took me boldly over every single fence and didn’t even think of overjumping or stopping. I had my neck strap, but I didn’t need it. He didn’t touch a pole, either. It helped that for the first time in my life I was actually able to think on course at a show. I made decisions, and most of them were good. I counted strides. I looked up and rode my lines and breathed without having to recite Psalm 23 at the top of my lungs – it may be the first show I’ve done in years that I didn’t recite at all.

That’s not to say I didn’t need God for every moment. Simply that the truth of the beloved Psalm sat so deeply in my heart today that I didn’t need any reminding. I know God is beginning to make a mighty change in me, praise Him, and He’s done much of it through fantastic coach K. Her lessons have made a massive difference already.

So Jamaica jumped all clear rounds today, and came third in the 60cm. I think he could have won it if I’d taken a few chances and cut some turns. The jump-off was simply over fences 1-6, and I rode exactly the same lines as I did in the first round, just put my foot down a little bit. Still, I’m glad I rode nice lines and gave him a good experience – it’ll stand us in good stead at the next show when we both trust each other better.

Me a good Maica!

Lancelot was also a good boy, much more grown up than at his last show in January. He started out a little looky and tense over his back in the warmup, but didn’t ever actually spook. I only had 10 minutes to warm him up after jumping the 50 on Jamaica, but it turned out to be quite enough. He wiggled into the warmup fences a little bit, but I just made it clear that running out wasn’t an option and he gave up on the idea.

He was a bit heavy and leaning in my hand the whole day, something we’re struggling with at home, too. He doesn’t ever run away, he just hangs. I can get him back easily off my seat, but to be totally kid-safe he needs to come off the hand considerably. I’ll try popping him into a French link for a bit and see if the different feel gets him to back off a bit.

His jumping was still really impressive. At his last show he’d stopped at the first fence and wiggled at all the jumps. This time we did snort and look at stuff in the arena as we headed in, but as soon as he was aimed at a fence he was like “Oh, I know this!” and took me fearlessly over every fence. His steering was a bit glitchy now and then, but we got where we needed to be and jumped everything in a sturdy rhythm. In the 60cm he was even giving me lead changes over the fences, which I actually haven’t even taught him yet.

We did lose balance and fluff one distance in the 60cm, causing him to roll the pole down with his hind feet. I don’t really mind because it meant he wasn’t overjumping – rather a perk there, the chap can overjump properly when he wants to.

high alert

Thanks Lord for a great day out. Glory to the King.

yay for snazzy yard shirts! Also cameo by enormous zit. Ugh. I’ve been 20 for more than a week and still get these? I feel betrayed.
also maybe time for new gloves

Struggling

​I kind of hesitate to write this post because I really am not writing this for sympathy, though I know it may come across that way. But I know scars can only do any good when they’re shown as a symbol of hope and survival, so I write this for everyone who is where I am and was where I have been, anyone for whom it might be a glimmer of hope.

Because I know how alone it feels to be afraid.

It feels so stupid to have riding nerves, doesn’t it? It’s so easy to believe that nobody else feels the way you do. That there’s something wrong with you that other people just don’t have wrong with them. Maybe you’re just not cut out for riding, maybe you just can’t. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal unless it’s your living. Your calling. A part of you. Something you’re on fire for. People my age so often complain that they don’t know what they want to do. Is there any worse agony than to know what you want to do and be unable to do it for a reason as humiliating as fear?

It’s not just nerves. Everyone has nerves. Nerves are the little buzz I feel at shows; an added sharpness that can develop into tension if not managed. No, this is fear, borderline phobic. It’s paralytic. I come down to that fence and I can’t move or think. I freeze and mess up, and that makes it worse, over and over again.

I have screamed why. I have been sobbing on my knees begging to know why God would give me such a burning passion and such a debilitating handicap. Why can’t I be like the other riders I see floating over 1.20, 1.30? I’m willing to bet some of them haven’t ever taught a horse a thing but here I am, the horse trainer – a good one, too – freezing to the base of 70cm jumps. Through me God has fixed horses that you couldn’t touch, trained remedial buckers to dance, breathed the light back into the eyes of the broken. Why won’t He help me jump this fence?

It’s jumping, mostly. Young horses, even hacking are OK. Not as OK as I look; the silent battle remains – but OK enough that I can enjoy it and do it well. But jumping…

Today’s jumping exercise in my lesson with coach K was just a vertical of about 75cm, sharp right turn to a slightly bigger oxer, six strides to another oxer. I put up that kind of stuff in my lessons every day. I buried poor old Al so many times that eventually even he stopped. I was using every single trick I know to calm myself down and it wasn’t working.

Coach K is worth her weight in gold; she figured me out and remains endlessly patient. But from where I’m sitting, jumping 85cm on a horse I don’t know in my exam is looking like a very, very big ask.

I went home feeling exhausted from the battle. There’s just never a respite from it, no riding situation in which that dark clouds lifts completely. It’s so heavy sometimes and I couldn’t understand why.

Until this afternoon when I was helping my own little student with the very, very bad nerves. And I had to argue with him to let me put the lead on when we went for a little hack. And when I took him for his first little trot, he didn’t panic and squeal the way he used to when we just lifted him onto the pony. No. He laughed. He laughed and a smile burst over his little face like a sunrise.

And I could almost hear God saying, This is why.

He could lift this struggle from me. He could make this cup to pass away from me, but He leaves me to drink it because He’s got a plan. I don’t take it lightly when I say that God has made me a good coach for nervous riders. I can help them because I am them. I’ve been there and I know they can’t help it, they can’t just get over it magically. But I can help them get over it. Step by tiny step.

So I’ll drink that cup to the very dregs.

I still hate the struggle. I’m still so tired of it. But I know I have to bear it for a reason, so I pray, Not as I will but as Thou wilt. Tomorrow I’ll shoulder the cross and march on and share the truth about the struggle because it can help someone. There will be haters who’ll think a nervous rider can’t be a good one. They will be wrong. I make a living out of something that terrifies me – that has to stand for something.

And one by one, I’ll watch my riders blossom. And with each one, I’ll continue to hope that someday, that might be me, too.

Glory to the King.