Two Lessons

Two lessons in a single week again? What sorcery is this?

No sorcery here – just too many blessings even to count. After spending a magical week with the darling at the fire base where he works, I was admittedly reluctant to come back to our home, but I know it won’t be long before he’s with me again too. And until he does get back, I know just how to keep myself occupied.

it’s only 3 hours away but it feels like Narnia

Lancelot and I were going to do an express eventing show this coming weekend, but I ended up not having space in the box. This turned out not to be a bad thing, because – with the best of intentions of keeping him from getting sweaty and miserable in his increased work – I clipped the little guy. (He behaved impeccably; he was fast asleep by the end, although he did pull away when I started tidying up around his head, so I left that for next year’s conversation).

he has no muscles so let’s call this the before picture

All fine and well; he slept in the field bundled up in a blanky. Unfortunately the winter elected that specific night for the coldest of the year, and evidently I hadn’t blanketed him thickly enough, because he got cold and was then really sore and stiff in his hind end. Sound again now, but he was not very happy. Of course, I put him straight into a nice warm stable.

sceptical

I did have a lesson booked with K, though, so instead of skipping it we took the dragon out on xc for the first time in years. In fact, I haven’t even been on the dragon for months, but her kid has been riding her so I just borrowed her back for a few hours.

sooooo grey!

Of course, she was picture perfect. I had a lot of little glitches to fix in the warmup – which was a bit sad, but you know, kids – and she refused the first couple of jumps. Once she did jump them, though, a little switch flicked in her head. She realized that it was me on her back and that full dragon mode was absolutely allowed. So full dragon mode we went.

let us appreciate how small I look on her 14.3 hands

She jumped really great, her typical wild self, once she realized that I wasn’t going to let her stop. In fact, by the time we jumped a course at the end, she was actually running away and bucking quite a lot lol. I had forgotten how hot the fire in her belly burns. I am absolutely going to be stealing her back more frequently from now on!

I don’t think anyone will ever beat my dragon, just the way no one ever beat old Skye. She’s in a league of her own. Right now, the plan is for her to compete with a kid for two more years and then to breed a foal from her. She is from a rare breed that could really benefit from her bloodline, plus I think I really need a half-Friesian half-dragon to be my next young horse.

follow puppy

Speaking of half-Friesians, this one had a lesson booked with J for this morning – 6:30 this morning, to be precise. That meant that at 4:30 I was getting him ready to box. He was not amused with being woken at that kind of an hour.

“Mom, you’re out of your cotton-picking mind”

Nevertheless, he obliged, although when we got to J’s farm we were both still somewhat bleary-eyed. Still, we missed all the traffic, so that was a win. Despite having agreed to this madness, J was NOT amused at all with having to stand in the cold arena at that time of morning (it was 4°C when we arrived) and called me a name I won’t share on the blog.

It was absolutely worth it, though, to go out onto the freshly raked river sand. And when the sun just rose and painted everything in pale gold, it was magic.

J’s doggo is almost as big as my horsie

After bemoaning my terrible choice of entering Novice at the last show, J proceeded to put us through basically all of the Elementary movements to prove that we can.

And actually it was all fine. Canter left needs a lot more impulsion, but the changes were fine, and J even said “good” once or twice so that’s a plus. Thunder was also SUPREMELY well behaved throughout – he was relaxed, focused, and just a real pleasure to work with. He did spook at a few things but that only made J laugh at us.

Just when my abs (and his butt) were dying, though, J made us go to sitting trot and do all of the lateral things. Of course, I was in trouble for not using my outside rein enough (a running theme). I have been given strict instructions to do nothing but endless renvers until I finally fix it.

J also said I could bring two horsies next time so if baby Arab’s buttocks are less tender in two weeks’ time, he’ll go too.

Honestly, I’m totally blown away by the place I’m in right now. I really, really, really miss darling, but I know he has to go work so that we can save for our wedding together. Horse-wise, though, it’s just incredible. I can’t believe the horse, the support network, the instruction, just all of it. It feels straight from a fairytale. It feels amazing.

It feels like a love letter signed by the King. And I’ll read it over and over, until the corners curl up and the very ink fades, until there is no more use for letters, until I see His face.

Till then, we will be dancing.

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.

Still Alive, Part 2

Last week was our first Boot Camp. As the title suggests, this was no standard pony camp and was basically designed to inflict torture and misery upon the teenage soul.

so miserable right?

Jokes aside, it was pretty tough. The girls were pooped and, to be honest, I was also pretty tuckered out by the end of it.
We kicked off on Monday with cross-country lessons at Winstead with coach K: Zorro and Z-kid, Pennie and her kid, Renè and working student K, Sunè and working student E, and Jamaica with me. Of the whole lot, only Pennie and Renè deigned to go in the water, but apart from that the ponies were all fantastic.

Jamaica started out spooky for reasons known only to himself (“That’s Appaloosas” said coach K with resignation) and thus threw in a stop at the first little log and another stop at the dyke, but once he settled down he was back to his generous self and popped over everything, no questions asked. He flatly refused the water but drops, banks, skinnies, the dyke (eventually) and the scary trailer oxer thing were all quite OK.

I never said I wasn’t worried

Everything was 60-70cm, but it was fun and he learned something. Mission accomplished.
On the Tuesday and Thursday I basically kicked back and relaxed while the girls did everything. They even helped with the beginner lessons. I could get used to it.

Wednesday we all trooped off to the SA Lipizzaners: a whole gang of skinny, short, nervous girls with K towering over us. It takes people a few seconds to figure out which one is the coach. I’ll take it as a compliment while it lasts. We were having lunging lessons with the Lippy riders, a golden opportunity to ride a majestic white stallion and learn lots of stuff.

the Morning Star Stables invasion of the Lipizzaner Hall

The girls were all a little starstruck, but all managed to learn plenty, not least myself. My coach immediately spotted my chair seat (ugh) and we set to work on that. My biggest takeaway from this lesson was that, like, half of all my riding problems stem from my left hip. It doesn’t wanna. It’s very stiff and takes ages to warm up. I should have suspected this (it aches in the evenings or when I ride in the cold) but it was a total lightbulb moment for me. Because the hip is stiff it doesn’t open up and allow my leg to relax back into alignment, hence the chair seat. And I know I always sit badly crooked to the right, which is probably because my body is protecting the sore left hip from being sat on.
This begs the question: why exactly at the age of 20 do I already have a joint that’s checking out on me? I can only think it comes from years of climbing determinedly onto huge horses from the ground. It was my party trick as a kid – I remember being able to get onto 16.2 and 16.3 hand horses when I was like 11. My right shoulder is similarly stiff and painful, which is consistent with that theory as I use my right arm to pull myself aboard. Lesson learned. Don’t mount from the ground, kids.

The highlight of the week was undoubtedly the daily Bible study. The girls really came openminded and I had composed these meticulous little notes, which got cast aside as the Holy Spirit took the controls and spoke. The girls had so much to contribute and it was just this incredible spiritual experience.

Where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is, in the midst of us.

Glory to the King.

ICB Christmas Event Recap: The Course Walk

Our last event of the year was also our first time at a gorgeous old venue right in the deep horse country of Kyalami. It was too beautiful not to photograph, and Amanda from the $900 Facebook Pony and her epic course walks inspired us to try something more imaginative than just taking pictures of jumps.  Hence: the Epic Puppy Course Walk, courtesy of my sister Rain, Ice the puppy, and some mild delirium due to sleep deprivation.

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Coming out of the startbox, the track went straight towards number one. The top pole was taken off for my class, so it was a very simple little log, but it was a steeply uphill approach. It was a fair preparation for the relatively challenging course, but it rode well for all but one rider, who had 60 penalties here.

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This was a max height A-frame and looked rather imposing, but as A-frames seem to do, it rode beautifully.

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Number three rode as nicely as Ice is cute, although it was a fairly wide oxer.

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Number four was terrifying. After number three the stretch was just long enough for one’s mind to wander, followed by a 90 degree turn and only four or five strides into the shade and to this narrow fence with bales all over it. Unsurprisingly, three riders had stops here.

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Number five was slightly complicated by a branch that hung in the approach, forcing one to jump at a slight angle. Except if you ride a 14.3hh pony. Then you just go under the branch. (Epic win). All the horses navigated this one just fine.

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Number six was beautiful – a straightforward log at the end of a long straight gallop, just asking to be jumped straight out of a big stride. It rode like a dream.

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Number seven proved to be the most problematic fence on the course, with three eliminations. In itself it was quite low and not the widest fence, but the horses could just catch a glimpse of the water as they jumped, so a lot of riders came to grief here.

ICB8

The water was rather a pain. It wasn’t flagged, but approaching number 8 was almost impossible without going through it. Circling would set one up for a perfect approach, but it did mean entering the water twice. Arwen was hesitant to go in the first time, so I made a very tight 90 degree turn to number 8 and made it out that way. If she would trot into water I would undoubtedly have circled.

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8 was a little step, with a higher section (pictured) and a very low one. The higher section was easier to approach, but because Arwen was basically jogging once we reached it, we took the lower one and the line from 8 to 9 rode just fine. 9 is the double log in the background.

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Number 9 was unassuming, but it was a short, steep uphill approach from 8. If one lost impulsion through the water and wasn’t quick to get it back, it was very easy to get a silly stop here. Everyone managed it fine, though.

ICB11

10a and b were a fairly terrifying combination for the level. This max height vertical was 10a, with just two strides to…

ICB12

… our first open ditch ever. It wasn’t very wide, but it was pretty deep and I was scared out of my socks. This combination rode well for everyone.

ICB13

Number 11 was set underneath a shed, which was a little intimidating. The log itself was very low, though, so it didn’t cause any issues. It was a very fair question.

ICB14

This skinny was set in the middle of a massive field all alone, asking for a run-out. Luckily for me, Arwen locked onto it as she jumped number 11, so she jumped it almost as well as Ice. It did cause a stop, though.

ICB15

Spooky number 13 (less spooky without a balletic teenager on it) was the culprit of the only rider fall on cross-country, but it was actually pretty low in the middle and the approach was easy enough.

ICB16

There was a long gallop to number 14, the second open ditch on course. This ditch was really very shallow and caused no issues.

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Number 15 had a fairly difficult approach – a quite sharp turn up a hill. Arwen and I slowed down, angled it and jumped fine, but it was quite big and spooky.

ICB19

16 was an extremely inviting little slanted ladder and rode well for everyone except the resident idiot (viz., me). Its landing was slightly downhill, nicely preparing us for

ICB17

a drop that looked about the size of Pride Rock on the morning of the competition. It rode beautifully for me, though, and all the horses jumped it on the first shot.

ICB20

This branch was another epic win for Arwen and me. We just ran under it like bosses.

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18 was a last challenge – a max height oxer set on an uphill as the already tired horses headed for home. This caused no issues, though, and rounded off a beautiful and well-built course nicely.

Needless to say, the ditches had me trying to digest some butterflies, but it turned out to be the showjumping I should have worried about…

 

 

 

Le Godimo’s Last Bash Event

When we heard that the beloved Le Godimo Horse Trials was making its November 2015 event its last, we just had to go. This beautiful venue with its inviting courses and holiday feel, where everybody camps out beside the stables and horseboxes are universally slept in, had been a gem of the eventing community for many years. Our first event in March was held there and I was really sad to learn that we would only ever ride there twice.

We planned to make the last one a good one, at least. Erin came along to jump judge and plait (a skill which I vastly lack), Dad played the role of chauffer and camper extraordinaire, Arwen did the running and jumping and I held on. She travelled as well as she ever does and came out of the horsebox calm enough that with a net of teff hay to placate her we actually managed to put up her mane in a stallion plait in record time. I had her half saddled up when she shook the whole thing out with one enormous sneeze. Panic and chaos ensued; we had a nice warm up, discovered that dressage was running early, and dashed back to the box. Erin saved our butts by making nine of the most perfect little showing buttons you ever saw in your life and then proceeded to whine and moan about how awful they were while I shouted at her to shut up and video the test. Amid the madness, Dad also discovered that I had only printed half of said test, and memorised vague bits of it. With panicking humans in all directions, Arwen put her head down and went directly to work without a fuss. In sharp contrast to last Le Godimo, she was calm, collected and behaving herself impeccably. I rode gorgeously in the warmup and then arrived at the judge’s gazebo too early, got into trouble, made an idiot of myself and came down the centreline distracted, embarrassed and above all, crooked.

Arwen saved my sorry skin for me. Aimed directly for the no man’s land somewhere between H and C, she made herself as straight as a ruler and came down that centreline with her legs swinging with the rhythm and regularity of pendulums. I was as nervous as they come, so I leant forward, basically sat on my reins and stared at her neck with its perfect plaits. The longsuffering Arwen did her best and earned a slew of 6s and 7s, earning us a very respectable 49.8 penalties (66.9%; for you Americans it would have been a 33.1). It was enough for eighth. My nervousness cost us badly as I held her down in the canter, making her slop around like a riding school pony and getting us a whole bunch of 6s. Even if I had ridden like a human being I find it much harder to get dazzling scores in these simple eventing tests. Arwen’s paces are nothing to write home about, so a working trot from M to F is difficult to make into something really wow; her greatest strength is her extreme obedience, and that’s a lot easier to showcase in a complex transition  or a four-loop serpentine than in 6 walk steps over X.

Showjumping started a few hours later. I walked the course without much trepidation; it was much less complicated than at the last Le Godimo. Number 1 was a vertical, then a long bending line to number 2; a gradual loop led to number 3 and 4, a distance that walked for a long 5 strides. 4 was slightly intimidating – a max height oxer with a white lattice under it. Then one went straight up a massive bank, with two strides from the top of that to a simple vertical at 5. Large left turn to a max height oxer at 6, back down the bank to another vertical at 7, then slightly left to an oxer at 9. A fairly long gallop to the right to an ominous white oxer at 10. Stuff we can deal with.

Arwen warmed up dead lazy. In her defence, it was ridiculously hot and we were both dying. She crashed through the first warmup jump and then decided against that sort of thing and jumped the rest of them okay. She had a workaday sort of air in the show arena right up until we cantered up to fence 1 and she wiggled violently. I gave her a mighty pony kick and we made it. Most of the course was fairly similar; she wiggled at the first four jumps, I pony kicked and she cleared them. The five-stride line from 3 to 4 was just short enough to be really awkward for her; she did six and a half, scrambled over number four, and came up the bank to 5 in a dead sticky canter. She was as willing as they come to jump it but just didn’t have the impulsion and tapped the rail with a back hoof as she jumped, just rolling it out of the cup. After that she was game and forward and cleared everything well and quickly for no time penalties, just the 4 faults for that unlucky rail.

Arwen1

I was very happy with her. No stops at her first jumping competition since August. I blamed the wiggling on her long break, and the rail was really just rather unfortunate; she lost impulsion due to not fitting her strides in to number 4 and just couldn’t get it back up the bank to 5.

We spent the night merrily in the horsebox, with Arwen camped out in her huge electric paddock beside us. She vastly preferred this to a stable and stood there smugly in her rain sheet, telling all the damp warmbloods in their wood stables that they were losers. Dad had rigged up the box to become the lap of luxury for us humans too, including bunk stretchers and a portable shower. I am known for killing ex-boyfriends with crazy WWF moves (Mutterer’s actual words) in my sleep, so I speak for myself when I say I slept well; Erin, on the bottom bunk with me bucking and leaping around on the top one, would probably beg to differ.

The morning was lazy for Arwen and I; I fed and groomed at 5:30am and then hung around while Erin went off to jump judge. I joined her to watch some big horses jumping the EV90 log (PETRIFYING) and the EV80s jump their corner (doable, especially after the insane corner at Fourways). Afterwards I took Arwen for a little hack to stretch her legs, and ended up hanging on desperately to a little grey dragon that leapt and snorted around completely uncharacteristically. The long open stretch from the campsite to the show arenas at Le Godimo turns her little head for some reason; I decided to pick my battles and we went dragoning back, legs thoroughly stretched.

It was ridiculously hot by the time we head for the xc warmup around 11:30. Arwen warmed up amazing. She was jumping every fence she could see with a beautiful little bascule, taking me forward to every jump. We headed down to the startbox in high spirits and some nervousness. The countdown from 3 was just long enough to salute the King and then we were off towards number 1, an inviting little log with bales under it. Arwen had a good look and then popped over.

2 was set at almost a 90 degree angle to 1, but the stretch between them was long enough that it shouldn’t have been a problem except I failed to steer. I took it too wide, swung her into it too late and she ran sideways. Just before the fence I managed to get her back and boot her over it and she went quite willingly, but we did get a very costly 20 penalties for that. Arwen, violently ticked off, went bucking off into the bush, yelling YOU HAD ONE JOB, HUMAN, ONE JOB! I shortened my reins and steered properly this time into number 3, which she wiggled at, but jumped all right. The stretch from 3 to 4 took us right past the campsite, causing Arwen to neigh and shy melodramatically; 4 was the first max height fence with bales and flowers and other monsters on it and Arwen very nearly stopped, but I gave her a tap with the whip and rode her hard and she consented to take the leap.

At number 5, suddenly beast mode kicked back in. It was a welcoming pole stack and Arwen’s ears flicked forward and suddenly we were back in business. She sailed over that, then hoofed it down the long stretch to the oxer at 6. Nothing to worry about there; down the long straight to the log at 7, slight wiggle but nothing major, and then we were going down to pipe oxer at 8. Arwen jumped that just fabulously, straight out of a huge big gallop stride without turning a hair.

Number 9 terrified me out of my socks. It was a max height solid stone wall, easily the widest fence across the top. According to Erin, who was judging it, we both came down to it with eyes as big as saucers. I yelled, “The Lord is my Shepherd! JUMP ARWEN!” and gave her another bit of encouragement with my crop and Arwen tucked up her knees and jumped it. We landed galloping. Number 10 was another pole stack which Arwen just devoured; then there was a long stretch to 11 and I sat down on her and closed my legs around her and she took off like a fat grey rocket. I had to steady her a little for 11, another bale jump, and then sat up and squished her canter into a tight little ball for number 12. A simple rail with a ground line set slightly in front of it, it wasn’t bad in itself, but the path curved off directly next to it. The thing was begging for a run out. I kept my hands and eyes up and my honest mare didn’t even think about running out. She popped over without any fuss.

On the long uphill 12 to 13 we really opened up the throttle and came pounding down there at a goodly gallop. Number 13 was just scary enough to back her off a little and over she went. 14 was a beautiful little slanted grid which she took in her stride; 15 was a wide, max height A-frame that actually rode really really well. Number 16 was the log at the water, but when we came round the corner there were spectators all over the road. I bellowed, “HEY!”, not having the breath for much else; they scattered, Arwen spooked at them violently and my hat fell over my eyes. We jumped number 16 on feel alone because I definitely couldn’t see it. I jammed my hat back up just in time to see the water. We wiggled, but she didn’t go down to a walk and power trotted through like a good little mare.

Number 18 was this unassuming oxer, but it was a very awkward approach, and I was glad we were trotting to get straight enough for it. She broke to canter herself and took me over it. We came blasting over the finish with not a single time penalty, just the 20 for that dumb run-out at number 2.

Arwen2

The run-out cost us three places. We fell to 11th, which was still good enough for 2 points to start off our first season with the Gauteng Eventers Amateur League. I knew I had been taking something of a risk entering EV70 instead of EV60, but the cross-country was of a similar level as their EV60 event, so it turned out to be a very good move-up. We both had an absolute blast. Glory and praise and honour and gratitude to the King.

The Thundering Thelwell

If I only owned Arwen, this would totally be my blog name.

Last Sunday found my poor dad trailering two horses to President’s Park for cross-country; Arwen and the Mutterer’s wonderful white gelding, who proved to be the good influence in the equation even though the poor thing hadn’t been to an outing for months, if ever.

Arwen appeared to enjoy her travel buddy and was hyper but not sweaty when we arrived, seeming more excited than worried; she loves President’s Park. I pulled the gelding off the trailer in a mild flap (I was, as usual, somewhat late; I invariably oversleep on show mornings) and threw him at Mom as soon as I saw that he was as quiet as a sheep. Mom stood there grinning while he grazed (they love each other) and I threw Arwen’s stuff on and cantered off only to find that my trainer was way on the other end of the Park and I was actually quite early.

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Complete with oh-so-stylish blue duct tape holding my errant gaiter closed

This was a huge relief. I’d been sick all week, so my already unfit, overweight and hyper horse had spent five days eating grass. On Friday I was able to lunge her without dying and on Saturday I managed to kind of ride, although I don’t think I achieved anything apart from burning some energy (mostly mine). The same went for the dear white gelding, but I wasn’t too worried about him because he’s a trooper. But I was expecting a bit of fireworks from Arwen.

It was not to be. She batted her eyelashes at a very pretty (and matchingly rotund) grey stallion who was also warming up, then put her head down and went to work. No spooking. No neighing. Perfect obedience. No bucking. You just gotta love little grey mares.

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I can’t wait for my new boots to arrive… but okay, my horse is amazing

She was good and unfit, so I hopped off after a couple of canter circles and waited for my lesson, giving up on trying to stop her grazing after a few attempts – I needed to save my limited energy. Then our instructor for the day, Graham Winn, came bouncing over looking much too energetic, so I scrambled on and my round horse and I wobbled off to join the lesson.

Arwen was amazing. She warmed up like a pro, despite the grey stallion who was leaping around everywhere, and aced the collecting and lengthening exercise our instructor used to get the horses focused and quick off the leg. For a change, Arwen was instantly responsive to my leg, as well as collecting calmly on gentle half-halts from my seat alone, with the hands having to do no pulling at all; just a touch of gentle resistance.

Lengthening the trot; I think this is going to be what our medium trot will look like
Lengthening the trot; I think this is going to be what our medium trot will look like

Then off we went to jump. I actually completely lost count of everything we jumped; we just never seemed to stop, trotting all over the Park after our instructor, who jogs everywhere at a frightening pace. I’ll be the first to admit that, although not for lack of trying, I was about as effective and balanced as a bag of potatoes. Mouldy potatoes. My flu was improved, but my muscles were basically mush, so “legs on” wasn’t happening a whole lot. So I concentrated on feeling confident and making my mind positive even when my poor jelly legs weren’t cooperating and Arwen heard the “yes” in me and responded with a bigger “YES” of her own. She was a star. She thought of stopping only once, and then I summoned the strength to kick and squeak and she jumped.

We tackled a few harder things than we’ve done before: a jump straight into water, a log with three strides to a thatch that you had to jump at an angle landing on a quite sharp downhill, a three-stride combination with the first jump on an uphill and the second on a distinct downhill, and (drum roll) a drop. I detest drops. To be honest, I am absolutely terrified of drops. Before the dynasty of the Kent and Masters, Arwen and I tried jumping down a few banks with the invariable result that my old saddle shot up her neck and I shot up her ears and she bucked in protest, which was not very fun at all and resulted in both of us hating drops. However, the instructor said go, so we went, most reluctantly and eventually horizontally; I was not expecting to leap into thin air and nearly sat on her tail. After a few attempts, however, she was already too tired to do the leaping thing and started to pop down sensibly and I realised that I was probably not going to die.

Because this is how the big boys do it, right?
Because this is how the big boys do it, right?

There was also one sort of rolltop fence that she didn’t like; she was a bit tired by this point and touched it with her toes the first time she jumped, which scared the socks off her (Arwen hates touching fences) so she hesitated and then jumped it hugely the second time. No worries, at least she’s a careful cross-country mount.

Apart from those, absolutely nothing phased her. She did throw the odd happy buck or two, which I will not protest about because she’s young and lively and not malicious and totally allowed to express herself considering that she doesn’t come anywhere near dislodging me. Even the water didn’t give her a moment’s pause; she jumped over a log into it, she galloped through it, and I sat there grinning and unable to see (on a 14.3hh horse you are rather close to the spray) because I love water. At one big log, both the horses leading us ran out; Arwen thought about it, but the moment I clapped my legs on she said, “Yes, ma’am!” and jumped without a second thought. That’s my brave little grey mare.

That's what I'm talking about
That’s what I’m talking about

We are probably going to our first event in mid-March. Mentally, I believe she’s ready; the dressage should be easy for her, and she’s successfully done both cross-country and showjumping at a greater height than our class will be (60cm, or about 2′). Physically, well, in the words of a spectator: “Oh look! It’s just like a Thelwell pony.”

Arwen watching the grey stallion with WAY too much interest... If she pops out a little grey baby in 11 months, don't say I didn't warn you.
Arwen watching the grey stallion with WAY too much interest… If she pops out a little grey baby in 11 months, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Thelwell
The resemblance is actually rather frightening

We were both exhausted when we staggered back to the trailer; Arwen, although not very breathless, was sweating so hard that I couldn’t see the difference between sweat and wetness from the water complex. She did not seem much bothered, however, and started grazing happily as I ripped her tack off and strapped it onto the white gelding. He had been grazing demurely under a tree with Mom, being his usual saintly self. I was tired and hurting but figured that cross-country was a good way to die, so I got on and trotted off for his lesson with Kirsten (who was giving me a free lesson apparently because she wanted to see how the white gelding goes, but possibly because like the rest of her family she has a heart of gold).

Thank God (really, do it) the white gelding was perfect and I lived to tell the tale. He hesitated at the first jump, then took everything in his stride with his typical generous aplomb. I’ll let the pictures speak. Speaking of which, thanks big li’l sis for the pictures!

Glory, glory, glory to the amazing King!

I LOVE WATER
I LOVE WATER
He thought he should go over the water complex. Yes, Nooitgedachters can jump like superstars.
He thought he should go over the water complex. Yes, Nooitgedachters can jump like superstars.
WHEEEE
WHEEEE