Nissan Easter Festival

Two weekends ago was my first time riding at Easter Fest, arguably the biggest show I’ve competed in (Horse of the Year may be bigger; YDHS more elite). My competition was, of course, star-studded, so I had low expectations, mostly aiming to just go and get that big-show exposure so that I can deal with my nerves now and not when my scores actually count for something.

img-20180325-wa0047.jpg

Sunday was showing day on Arwen. She hasn’t been to a show by herself in a long time, but she’s so grown up now that I didn’t even really worry.

img-20180325-wa0030.jpg

I would have loved to do the working riding, but unfortunately it ended up being on the same day as Thunder’s dressage and I wasn’t willing to deal with Thunder’s girlfriend shenanigans at this particular show, so we just entered the open show hack and show riding.

img-20180325-wa0033.jpg

So my darling, my dragon and I charged off to Kyalami with what I thought was much time to spare, only to discover that my mom’s bakkie is not quite so adept at towing the box as my dad’s, eventually arriving at KPC about half an hour later than I’d hoped. Thankfully, the dragon is very grown up and the darling has cottoned on very quickly to the various horse show SO skills (holding horses, fetching numbers, fetching food, soothing rattled nerves, being slightly neglected [sorry love], etc.) so we ended up having time for a good warmup and arriving in the show arena with only a few hairs out of place.

img-20180325-wa0023.jpg

In short, Arwen was absolutely fantastic and I really actually had fun once again. I think I might even say that I’m cured of my fear of showing judges. Honestly, when you’ve loaded your dying friend into a helicopter right after a horrible violent event, some things really just don’t register on the scary scale anymore, and showing judges are one of them. Life is way too short to worry about what they think, so I just rode my horse, thanked my Jesus and let the rest do whatever it wanted.

She was just amazing. Our classes were quite small, which was nice because I intensely dislike sitting in the line-up for ages, and Arwen really just did exactly as I asked and behaved exactly as she would at home. I swear she knows her individual show by heart.

img-20180325-wa0028.jpg

I didn’t expect placings because the small group of people in my classes were all well-known showing competitors on super fancy big horses and had turned them out really well, while Arwen – albeit at least moderately clean and properly plaited – is kinda fluffy already and I forgot my wet wipes at home so her feet and mouth were pretty dirty.  As expected, we placed dead stone last in both, but I was proud of my horse’s performance.

img-20180325-wa0042.jpg

The judge basically summarised why Arwen never does well in open show classes: she’s well schooled, she’s well behaved, she’s correct, but she is a pony and there’s no getting around that. I don’t really mind, though. She did excellently, and it was awesome.

img-20180325-wa0046.jpg

Monday was dressage day on Thunderbirdy. We had a nice late ride time, still managed to get stuck in traffic, and still managed to get there on time because I am dating Superman. Thunny was super relaxed on our arrival and happily hacked over to the warmup arena, where he promptly proceeded to completely lose his snot.

 

I think maybe he was a little fresh as the week before had been rainy and interfered with his program, but there was also a log next to the warmup that has been spooking generations of horses (including Nell) and it spooked him properly. He was obedient and controllable and actually carried himself really great, but his brain was not with me at all.


Going into the dressage arena he mercifully did not spook at anything, but the damage was done and he couldn’t focus. He had some truly excellent moments for 7s and 8s, and in the photos I love the way he was holding himself.


But he also made a LOT of kind of dumb mistakes, the kind he never makes at home, like fluffing the lead in his simple changes, breaking in his lengthening, and hollowing awfully in his rein back. He was also pulling a bit and occasionally wanted to buck and disunite when the whip tickled him (seriously, bro?).


So our scores were very mediocre: 58% and 60%. I’m a little bummed because if he had gone like he goes at home he would have had another 70%, but the poor guy is still greener than I realise. He just needs more miles. The schooling is there and he will start scoring well when he can relax; but he will only relax when I relax, so I feel God is busy teaching me a very big lesson here.


And as for this man, he is my lighthouse and most willing and able comrade in the heat of battle.

Glory to the King.

Thunder Update

With his biggest dressage show yet on the horizon, Thunder hasn’t actually competed in a single graded dressage class this year.

img_20180307_063934.jpg

Our first show of the year was in the very end of January, where I took a bunch of kids to a pre-SANESA training show for their dressage tests and packed him along too because the schedule was just too hectic to allow for another show. We did Novice 1 and 2 again, for sort of mediocre scores, but at least he won the one and came second in the other. He felt sort of mediocre on the day as well; trying hard, as usual, but tense and scattered, as usual for a show. If he had just lifted his back he would have had another 70%, but again, as always happens when he is a little tense, our scores were in the low to mid 60s.

img_20180227_073115.jpg

Our next show was Horse of the Year. I couldn’t afford HOY and dressage in the same month, and he is such a hunter type that it seemed a shame never to show him as one. I didn’t feel up to jumping the working hunter on him, so we entered for show hunter and working riding. The show hunter day he was absolutely fantastic. He didn’t gallop, or I think he would have placed, because he behaved impeccably and was forward and relaxed through his whole body. I found myself wishing we were in a dressage test because he would have done so well.

img-20180222-wa0021.jpg

Either way, we enjoyed ourselves but didn’t place because apparently hunters really should gallop instead of just making flat ears and bouncing.

The working riding day was absolutely dreadful. He was horrible in the warmup, screamed in the lineup, and then spooked at every single obstacle. But I did learn something that I can definitely use for future shows: Thunny is absolutely perfect if he goes anywhere alone or with a gelding, and absolutely horrible if he goes anywhere with a mare. Somebody is just a little proud cut, I presume.

img-20180222-wa0022.jpg

I know I should really just make him go to shows with mares until he gets over himself and behaves, but honestly, life’s too short and I don’t have the kind of money to waste entry fees on miserable experiences. Henceforth, unless unavoidable, Thunder is going to shows by himself so he can relax and we can actually achieve something other than getting frustrated and tense. This is our strategy for Easter Festival this weekend, and we’ll see how it goes. Considering he has just been to KPC for HOY, and is going by himself, I think he should be very chill. I hope for a nice score, but I don’t expect a placing. You wouldn’t either if you’d read the entries list in our class.

img_20180306_065520.jpg

Schooling has been kind of magical lately. We have worked through a lot of the initial drama that surfaced shortly after we started lessons with Coach J; the running and the falling out with the shoulder. He has learned to be both relaxed and forward, and I love it. We’ve sorted out a lot of our old issues – he has a stretchy trot now, he has a superb walk-canter transition, his lateral work is very much in place – and learned a whole lot of new things, too: travers, better lengthenings, shoulder-in, leg-yield zigzags that make him feel like he’s really dancing, four steps one way and then four steps the other just floating off my leg. Most exciting, we even started the flying changes.

img-20180305-wa0040.jpg

It happened like this. We spent the entire lesson working on leg-yield zigzags, with Coach J alternately shouting “LEFT leg!” and “Keep his neck straight!” until finally we got it right. Then we tried in canter, leg-yielding across the diagonal to the right. Coach J ordered, “Outside leg and leg-yield left” and I obediently did so and Thunder obediently popped out a flying change. Ever since I have been too nervous to really do them at home, but we have been pulling them out at lessons quite frequently, and as long as I keep his neck straight and push his bum over – as opposed to trying to pull his face around – they just magically fall out of the sky. I was definitely not expecting to be doing changes in March when we started lessons, a just-barely-Novice combination, in November.

img_20180307_065516.jpg

So mostly our schooling consists of doing whatever Coach J said, with occasional bits of test riding scattered in there, but honestly whatever it is that Coach J is making us do seems to make all the other stuff easier because the Novice work seems to be just sort of happening. It’s still rough around the edges, and I don’t expect the same scores we were getting for Prelim this weekend as we’re doing Novice 4 and 5 and they’re quite hard, but it’s all just there. Our one major downfall is that all of our downward transitions are poor – all of them. I think, though, that it’s me and not him. I ride too many green horses and have too much of a tendency to want to pull on his face, which makes him hollow through the transition.

Honestly, lessons with Coach J have been revolutionary. It was hard at first because I was trying so hard to prove ourselves to him, but now I’ve chilled out a bit and it feels like the bulk of the responsibility for getting Thunder up the levels doesn’t fall on my inexperienced shoulders anymore. I get to just relax and ride the horse for a change, and I absolutely love it. Of course, we still work very hard, practice hard, and learn hard, but at least we know what we’re doing now. I look forward to Easter Festival and I can’t wait to go dance with my horse again.

Thank You, Father. Glory to the King.

img_20180306_064858.jpg

Dear Thunderbird

For reasons I have yet to grasp, God saw fit to put you where you are: here with me on a farm in Africa. Sometimes I wonder where you even came from. The fact that your mother is a little round chestnut farm pony doesn’t mean that she isn’t valuable – to me, at least, her value is inexpressible – but she shouldn’t have been able to produce you. Not at 22 years old after being barren for at least seven years (if not all her life), not after having AHS when you were only a baby. The fact that you and your dam both made it out of that one alive was the first miracle that threw me to my knees.


Let alone the fact that you shouldn’t have survived, you should never have been talented. When people at shows ask me how you’re bred, I respond with, “His daddy was black and his mommy was chestnut,” and it’s about all I know. There is Friesian in there somewhere. You are a backyard-bred mongrel and you should never have been able to dance like you do. Dressage people should not be believing in you. Yet they are, because here you are; an unassuming little round bay horse, until you lift your back and suddenly grow two inches.

Your heart, at least, I can understand. Your dam is a fearless firestorm of a horse, a dauntless warrior queen of your kind. You’re not as fiery as she is, but, like her, you have a heart as big as the world.


That’s what makes you special, aside from whatever it is that makes you so supple and uphill and majestic. Your heart. You never stop giving. I never school for more than 20 minutes, except for you. Some days I look up and realise I’ve been on you for almost an hour and a half. Any horse should be sour by then, but not you; you stay enthusiastic, throwing yourself into the task, focused and attentive, delighting in your own God-given strength and beauty.

Some days, on your back, God takes me somewhere new; deeper into the land of the threefold cord, where there’s nothing but you and me and Him, and the dance. There is nothing that can touch us there. It’s a taste of Heaven; an intimate world where nothing else matters.

Some days. You see, love (and I know you do), while for 23 hours a day you live the comfortable life of the modern domestic horse – lolling in a field, teeth and feet always up to date, spine carefully adjusted, saddle fitted like a glove – I think God gave you a home that loves you for a reason. The only affliction you’ve ever had to endure sits between the saddle and the sky. I never mean to hurt you. Of course not. You’re my dance partner. But while there are some days that we taste Heaven, there are many more days when you get the old me, the carnal me, the mortality that is yet to be swallowed up of life, my flesh. The spirit indeed is willing, but you know exactly how weak the flesh can be. Oh, I’m not talking about the occasional hiding you get. Those are for your own good; you’re still a naughty little boy sometimes. But I know as well as you do that there is something we do to horses that is so much worse than just the tap of a dressage whip, or even a yank on the reins.


We’re human. Loud, complicated, emotional and always worrying about things that just don’t matter to horses. Sadly for you, you’re my horse. I can’t make the space between you and me that I have with the clients’ horses. Not with you. I need you. I don’t just need you to dance; I need you to hear me. I don’t have to explain anything to you. I just bring all my baggage and my fears and my hopes and my dreams and my exhaustion and bottle them all up and get on your back and try to make something beautiful, while emotions clash inside me so loud I can’t hear you and you can hardly hear yourself and God’s still small Voice doesn’t get through.

It’s ugly then. I’m sorry, love. I’m trying to fix it, but I can’t pretend it’ll be quick. I can’t pretend it’ll be easy or that there won’t be even more moments when my stressed out human will shouts down your quiet, loving opinion. We were made in the image of God, unlike you; but, also unlike you, we are the ones who fell.


God forgive me, sometimes I can make your life very hard for you. I know; then I worry about that, and make it even harder. You poor soul. You deserve better. But what you’ve got is me, and you’ve got me because God put us here together.

And you don’t mind.

I stress and fuss and freak out up there and make you tense. But you start every single ride with the same soft eye, the same supple back, ready for this ride to be better. You still come up to me in the field. You still love your work and never stop trying and concentrate, oh, how you concentrate. And with every breath, God is teaching me, not about dressage, but about Himself: about amazing grace.


I ask God’s forgiveness and I ask yours. And I won’t give up, because God hasn’t. You and me have a long, long way to go and sometimes it will be unpleasant. I don’t mean to make it hard for you. I don’t even mean to make it hard for myself. It just is. And you just accept it and go along with it, not questioning why your particular human should be the one that’s a little defective, just accepting that your heart is big enough for us both. I will be better for you, love. I promise. Just stay patient, stay loving, stay your wonderful self while I untangle my soul.

Thank you, buddy.

Glory to the King.

2018 Goals: Competing Horses

At the end of 2016, I faced losing the ride on the best horse I’d ever sat on. At the end of 2017, I face, for the first time in my life, regular and serious training on a horse who can go all the way, as well as starting another talented baby. And nobody but God can take either of them from me because it’s my name on the papers. It truly should not be possible, not for an anxious overachiever in the middle of nowhere on a shoestring budget, but God pays no attention to the possible.

When I have finally upgraded my membership (gotta pay Dressage SA first *gulp*), I will share what’s going on in my heart about the upcoming year of dressage, as well as my adventures riding Coach J’s super ultra fancy horses yesterday (squee!). But for today we’re going to be a bit intellectual and look at the things we want to work on this year in terms of the four babies I show myself.

Thunder

Thunder1

The man himself went from strength to strength in 2017, starting off by coming second in his first classes ever with mid-60s scores. He never scored less than 63% through a year at Prelim, then debuted at Novice with scores in the low 70s. We finished by scoring 66s again at CHG Champs despite riding in a thunderstorm with me as sick as a dog.

So his goals for 2017 were:

  • School all the Novice work, ready to compete next year. We have schooled everything. It’s not all polished yet, but he can go into an arena and do any Novice test without totally embarrassing himself, I’m sure. We have not polished all of it, but the movements are installed.
  • Jump 70cm courses with confidence.
  • Do our pre-flatwork short hacks calmly. He’s sometimes a little tense, but there has been no bolting. Yay!

With Coach J’s help, Thunny’s schooling is pretty much on track to continue scoring steadily at Novice at the very least. Our greatest bugbear is tension in the show ring. If he’s relaxed he unfailingly scores in the 70s. He has never been disobedient in the show arena, but he locks up through his back and neck, going from being connected and through (for the level) to simply being rhythmic and on the bit. This is just something that we’ll have to keep competing to resolve, and I’m willing to be patient with him. If it takes him five years to be consistent at competitions, then so be it. The horse is far too good for me to lose sleep over losing points at Novice because he saw a butterfly.

With this in mind, my focus is shifting to schooling correctly rather than winning competitions next year. Of course I would like to compete him at least once a month to work on resolving that issue and, obviously, earn grading points, but we probably won’t be doing CHG Series. We will probably end up going to bigger shows, though, for both of us to get our heads around the atmosphere. (Also because Coach J might be there).

I’ll be real honest, I kind of have no idea what goals I should be setting. In yesterday’s visit Coach J was talking about doing EM this year. I have my doubts, but the oracle knows best. Mostly I’ll keep chugging along doing my thing and watching to see what God does, because He seems bent on blowing my pathetic little expectations out of the water lately.

2018 goals:

First and second quarter:

  • Improve all of our downward transitions.
  • Improve our stretchy trot.
  • Improve both lengthenings.
  • Improve the halts, specifically staying connected in halt and immobility.
  • Improve rein back.

Third and fourth quarter:

Introduce all of the Elementary movements:

  • serpentine four loops
  • halt immobility 5 seconds
  • canter circle with break of contact
  • half stretchy trot circle
  • canter-walk transition
  • transition from walk to counter canter on the long side
  • shoulder-in
  • medium trot
  • extended walk
  • serpentine 3 loops with counter canter
  • medium canter
  • leg-yield zigzag
  • turn on the haunches
  • 10m canter circle
  • half circle in counter canter
  • simple change on a short diagonal
  • simple change on the long side
  • E-X half circle, X simple change, X-B half circle
  • collected trot

General:

  • Keep working on quiet little hacks.

 

Arwen

18451330_926248594181875_7155817256365659250_o.jpg

Arwie had another year of doing everything from showjumping to working riding to a whole lot of dressage. She took me to my first ever Elementary and tried her guts out in every single test despite mediocre riding and simply poor schooling, even scraping up a few placings as we went. Most of all, she was the dragon who relit my fire when I needed it, which is what she does best. Someday, if God wills it, I’ll ride the big grades and nobody will remember her – but I will, because she made it possible.

 

  • Get points for Elementary Medium. Sooooooo close. We would totally have done this if it wasn’t for the issue with her feet that ruined the last few months of the show season. It was God’s will, so I don’t mind admitting that this goal didn’t happen. Still, we have nine points and we need ten. She’s still registered with DSA so I might just drag the beast to one more show, get the last pesky point and then be done.
  • Don’t mess up a show riding/show hack class. 
  • Jump a graded 80cm round.
  • Do some cross-country lessons and/or go drag hunting. So we didn’t do this either, although not for lack of trying. Still, it’s no biggie.

Arwen tried her heart out for me this year, but we’ve been stuck in a rut for months, making almost no progress on our Elementary work. It’s not surprise, considering that all of her basics are lacking. It got worse when Thunder started to play with some of the movements and they were all so easy on him, which caused frustration with myself every time I schooled Arwie, knowing I could have done better if I’d had her as a youngster now. So, apart from maybe popping out to get that last grading point, dressage is on the shelf for Arwen for now.

Instead, we’ll be making our first serious foray into the world of showing. We’ve done bits, but this year I’m signing up with Showing SA (which is ridiculously cheap compared to DSA) and we’ll be hitting some of the bigger ones. The expensive classes do mean that I won’t be competing her as often, but she’s not a baby, she doesn’t need it that much anymore. I really look forward to it.

2018 goals:

  • Take at least one showing lesson or clinic.
  • Get over my phobia of all showing judges. Show at least once with one of the horrible ones and learn to deal.
  • Improve her rein-back and lengthenings.
  • Get points to go out of Novice.

 

Faith

wp-1510210077875.jpg

Last year this time, it was just days after I’d met Faithy for the first time. On the second of January, she came home – completely unhandled and so fresh off the veld that she didn’t even know what concentrates were and politely declined to eat them.

The little unicorn spent most of the year chilling in a field. The basic ground work was effortless, although loading went a lot better once I discovered that treats can bribe Faith into doing practically anything. I brought her in for backing in November, but it’s been slow progress, mostly because I hit a nasty burnout and non-competing horses went onto the back burner.

  • Stand for grooming and farrier.
  • Lead and tie up. 
  • Box well.
  • Be good to bath. 
  • Be good to catch. 
  • Show in-hand. Boo. There were no shows we could really do this year, as well as the minor disadvantage that she spent most of it looking like something like an adorable grey camel. Still, she has all the in-hand skills required, so that’s something.
  • In spring, lunge. I planned to start lunging in September/October and back shortly after her third birthday, but she was still such a baby then. I had to wait for the front end to catch up first, and I’m glad I did. She’s a sweetie, but very much immature for her age.
  • In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.
    She has worn a saddle, but that’s about it. Smart and loyal she is, but mature, not so much. I’m taking it slow. She could do with some growth and muscle tone before being asked to really do anything just yet.

Faithy is still only a very babyish three-year-old, so 2018 will still be very much relaxed. Our main goal is to be ready for YDHS in 2019 since I absolutely loved it on Nell last year, and since four-year-olds only do Prelim, I’m in no hurry. The main thing this year will be to establish rock-solid basics, and I’m taking the most basic of the basics: obedience, rhythm and relaxation.

2018 goals:

First and second quarter:

Complete the backing:

  • long-line
  • introduce pole work
  • introduce the rider
  • introduce walk
  • introduce trot
  • introduce canter
  • move to the dressage arena.

Start preliminary schooling:

  • introduce the figures
  • establish good transitions between gaits
  • establish balanced and united canter
  • introduce hacks, alone and in company
  • possibly ride a walk/trot test at our April show
  • show in-hand.

Second and third quarter:

Complete preliminary schooling:

  • introduce the idea of a long and low, stretchy frame
  • grow the frame upwards to connection
  • improve consistency in the connection in all three gaits and transitions
  • introduce free walk and stretchy trot figures.

Introduce competing (August at the latest):

  • box out to a clinic, lesson or training show
  • compete at least twice at Prelim.

 

Jamaica

wp-1511885120375.jpg

I didn’t even show Jamaica until February 2017, where we popped around something ridiculous like 50cm. We quickly made our way to 80cm, then stayed there forever as I tried to scrape my nerve together. Our move up to 90cm was easy, and I feel nicely set up for learning to jump Module 5 in mid to end 2018.

  • Hack reliably in company
  • School Novice dressage. 
  • Jump 90cm graded. 

In another turn of events, it has transpired that he may need to be sold in 2018. Thank God (no, really, thank Him), his owners are happy for me to finish Mod 5. It doesn’t really change my plans, since I will not be riding him after Mod 5 anyway. I have zero aspirations to showjump right now. I would really have loved to event the dude, and might still if there’s spare time (ha!), but my focus will have to be on the yard and dressage. Still love him. ❤

2018 goals:

First and second quarter:

  • Showjump 90cm at available training shows.
  • Compete at equitation 90cm at SANESA. Score 70% (that’s a 28) or more, if not at the first qualifier, then at least at the last two. 70% is the pass mark for Module 5.
  • Introduce all the flatwork required at Module 5: leg-yield, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, a little shoulder-in, a little travers. (The exam specifies only “lateral work” but I don’t expect to have to do half-pass).

Second and third quarter:

  • In May/June, jump a 1.00m showjumping round. (I would love to do the 1.00m equitation, but it requires swapping horses, and that just ain’t happening, thankyouverymuch. Ask me in a decade).
  • Jump at least one more clear 1.00m round at an appropriate pace. It doesn’t have to be fast, just flowing.
  • Jump Module 5 in September.
  • If we do fail it, jump it again in December.

 

Personal Riding

Thunder4

I didn’t actually set personal goals in 2017, but I did improve my position a LOT. I had a terrible chair seat for years and I feel like this year I finally fixed it. It’s still not perfect, especially not in my current dressage saddle, but yesterday when I sat down in Coach J’s proper dressage saddle my alignment was suddenly perfect without any effort on my part. My hands are also a lot better, as is my core.

I do still have a very long way to go. Riding Coach J’s big horses really impressed on me the amount of strength and suppleness required to keep it up, and I know I’m still severely crooked.

In terms of jumping, my high Module 4 mark shows that my position is pretty adequate. Still, my nerves tend to show when I grab mane and my lower leg tends to swing back on landing, so there is lots to do.

2018 goals:

Improve my own body:

  • Have regular chiro. If my medical aid covers it, I don’t have an excuse not to go, and it doesn’t help that I care about Thunny’s back when my own back is stiff and crooked on top of him. I’m almost permanently body sore, and that’s a disservice to the horses who get to carry that sack of potatoes around.
  • Take conditioning classes twice a week throughout the year. No excuses. My sister is a dance teacher, and nothing in the world compliments dressage like ballet does: it will be excellent for my core strength, body control, and awareness of how I use my muscles. Ballet is kinda savage so it’ll build my cardio for jumping at the same time. Even if my sister has to miss some classes, I have to find somewhere that I can cross-train. Volunteers get discounted membership at the local gym, so I really do not have excuses. I need to be just as strong and supple as Thunny.
  • I’m pretty good about eating and sleeping well. (This week does not count. One of the many perks of being a friendly teacher is large amounts of sweets at Christmastime – children’s love language). Keep it up, especially when I’m on volunteer duty.

Improve my dressage position:

  • Find out what’s going on with my shoulders – probably a chiro issue, but my left shoulder always starts stinging about midway through a ride. I also hang on my left rein a LOT and my left shoulder blade can’t go flat like Ms Ballet Teacher Sister wants it to. Literally, it can’t, not even with her manipulating it. (My chiro will be horrified).
  • Improve on my bad habit of bracing the lower back as soon as I feel tension. That tension is not limited to nervousness – even if I’m just concentrating, the moment I try harder than usual, my lower back arches and braces, and I lose my connection to Thunny’s back.
  • Improve on my bad habit of tipping forward at the hip, especially in canter. It’s related to the back and shoulders issues, but it needs focused attention to fix.
  • Improve on my super bad habit of looking down.

Improve my jumping position:

  • Improve my tendency for my heels to come up on landing. Lots of light seat for me!
  • Improve my release.
  • Improve my tendency to try and jump ahead on takeoff.

wp-1510210107760.jpg

I’ve never been so genuinely and childishly excited for a show season. God has blown me away this year, and I can’t wait to see what He does next. Yet, as always, there is so much possibility for things to not go according to plan. Horses go lame. Money runs out. These things happen. But my Abba, He loves me, regardless of what happens. So I lay down my anxiety, I look forward with joy, and I look up with peace, knowing that whatever lies ahead is part of His plan.

And I do not dare to dream, for my dreams are foolish. But as He has proven time and time again, He dreams for me.

Glory to the King.

 

Dilemma

I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Well – mostly not, anyway. Regrettably, this will only be a very short note to communicate a little mini update on some things (most of which are reasons for my absence from the blogosphere):

  1. I had a flu/cold/sick.
  2. While still flu/cold/sick, I rode CHG Champs on Thunder. In a crashing thunderstorm. He was amazing. ❤
  3. Pony camp. (Need I say more?)
  4. We ran our first dressage show.

All of the above went very well, especially pony camp and the dressage show. I have hundreds of photos, and will share them all, except that I have finally run out of space on WordPress. Considering it took me five years of constant uploading, I’m not terribly upset, but I’ll have to sort out an upgrade real quick before I can get back to proper updates. Maybe soon you’ll return to ridingonwater.com.

It is the time of year for goal revision and setting, though, so don’t go anywhere. There is more longwindedness to come. In the meantime, God be with you.

Glory to the King.

Thunder2

And Suddenly There Was Shoulder-In

By the end of last week, it was beginning to feel like things were starting to come together with Thunny and I. And by that I mean that the spastic chicken had finally developed the ability to let go of its inside rein.

pictured: superstar photobombed by groupies

So we headed off to our next lesson with optimism, which was rewarded when Coach J only made us do the turn on the forehand exercise like three times and moved on to other work – still on the same theme.

Straightness and connection and bend. We did alternately long stretches of trotting large, pushing for something like a medium trot (pls Coach J we can barely do lengthenings), focusing on having Thunder really forward off my leg and into my hand. “Use his bum to push his head down, not your hands to pull his head down,” intoned the oracle.

To do this I also had to give my inside bend fetish a rest and straighten him considerably, even on the corners, allowing both hind legs to push evenly forward into my hands. I struggled with this because all I really got from him in trot and canter was to run onto his forehand. In walk we got something much nicer, a massive active walk that I could feel over his back.

Then we’d move on to long stretches of shoulder-in going large. And I had my doubts because shoulder-in hadn’t really been on our radar – shoulder-fore had been a big ask for preparation for walk-canter – but what do you know? I popped on inside leg and outside hand and we had something like shoulder-in.

It wasn’t terribly good shoulder-in, though. I generally was too quick to reward Thunny for running out through his shoulder instead of being straight and stepping across, mostly because I have no idea what a proper shoulder-in feels like. More outside rein (always more outside rein) mitigated this, but we both began to degenerate into a bit of a mess about it, so Coach J ordered me off and got on the steed himself.

I neglected to take photos so here’s a gratuitous selfie

Nobody has ever trained Thunny other than me, so I’ve never really seen him being ridden in a true connection in real life. It took me a few seconds to get over how majestic he is and start to listen to Coach J. Who magically got my horse to shoulder-in. By the end of it he was doing shoulder-in in a long and low frame with a floppy inside rein.

I got on again then, but he was quite tired so we just did a couple more and then called it a day. It did feel better, though, and having seen it, I had a better idea of what it’s supposed to be.

On Tuesday our session was a bit of a mess. Thunder seemed to have forgotten everything he’d learned about connection and retained only the ability to run onto his forehand. We tried to do some stretchy trot but all he did was run. Then I tried to do some lateral work to re-engage his brain, starting with a little leg-yield, and the whole mood changed when I touched him with my inside leg and he gave me the best leg-yield I’ve ever ridden on any horse, ever.

After that we did leg-yield all over the place until I was happy as a bird and, thus, he was happy as a bird. Apparently inside leg to outside rein fixes everything. His shoulder-in was better then, too, although he was still quite hollow.

Every session since has been better. He does want to run forward in stretchy trot, but the trot itself is better, with much more stretching over his back. We just have to address the break in rhythm. His shoulder-in in walk has been long and low and relaxed, too. In trot I still lose the shoulder now and then, which makes me go tense in my lower back and then makes him hollow. So the connection hasn’t been good at all, but the straightness has improved.

The thing I can’t get down at all is that lengthened/medium trot. He either doesn’t lengthen much and falls on his forehand or just runs forward. I have never been able to ride a good lengthening unless the horse had a naturally big and flashy trot (I’m looking at you, Nell), so that’s a me thing, I think.

It’s so reassuring to know that I don’t have to have a meltdown over something I can’t get right, because now by God’s provision, we have Coach J to help us.

Glory to the King.

Equivest Show and More

Y’all.

Tunder5
halt, salute, stare at judge

My God? He’s amazing.

img_20171114_071033.jpg

Every time I enter a dressage show I feel vaguely guilty about spending time and money on something that isn’t expressly helping other people. I know, intellectually, that God wouldn’t have sent me Faith, or made my scruffy homebred really quite talented, if He wanted me to stop. I know I gave it to Him. But knowing something in your head and having faith in it in your soul isn’t always the same thing.

But these past few days have been one step deeper into faith.

23511137_742656345925395_4853312864434118788_o.jpg

The dream team set off: Superdad, Wonderbird and the Dragon, at a leisurely hour on Sunday morning (things I love about dressage). We were there in good time and I plopped Arwen’s tack on and off we went. I was expecting a dragon, but she was really, really good. Relaxed and quiet from the word go, but forward and enthusiastic. Our warmup was very relaxed, but as mediocre as usual. I was focusing hard on trying to develop an actual medium trot instead of a piggy little run, and she was focusing hard on bucking through the counter canter at one point, but then we were off and I was cautiously optimistic.

Our first halt felt OK, it was steady, square and on the bit, but it was 5.5 for quarters to left. The serpentine XA felt good as well for 6.5, which is about as good as we get. I’ve been working hard on the leg-yield and FX felt good – and was good, for 6.0 – but it all came to bits XM and I tried to sort it out but couldn’t really so that was a 5.0: “too much sideways”. At that point I started to realise that Arwen, while not exhausted, was slightly tired. After so many years of having her so, so fit, I’ve forgotten how flat she can be when she’s not jumping out of her skin. Arwen has to be hot to be her best, and she didn’t have the oomph.

Still, she didn’t feel at all reluctant, just a little tired, so I felt it was OK to finish the test and we soldiered on. We picked up a few more 6.0s for the halt and rein back (“steps not quite clear”) and the two turns on the haunches (“little too hurried”) – both better than before. The extended walk was 6.0 too, “lacking purpose”. She has a fabulous walk, so I blame that on being a little flat, too. And then at A she struck off on the wrong leg for a well-deserved 4.0. Really, Arwen? A wrong lead, in an Elementary test? But once again, she never, ever does that at home. Her brain was tired.

23509019_742656692592027_5737062481533360593_o.jpg
like I say. Superdad.

We got it together though for our best marks of the test; 7.0 for both the 10m canter circle and – get this – the simple change! I suppose we can cross “survive the simple changes” off our goals list. The counter canter was back to 6.0 for lacking engagement, and then the medium was a 4.5. I thought it was OK, but this judge evidently laid great emphasis on correct extensions/mediums, so that’s fair.  Our circle at R was down to a 5.0 (“more jump”) and then the next change she picked up the wrong leg again, for 4.0. The counter canter was another 5.0 with “more jump”, and then the medium trot, obviosuly, was a 4.0. I didn’t let her hurry this time, but we didn’t really do much medium-ing, so yeah. The halt was fine except she fussed and made herself extra-square at the last moment, earning a 6.0, “not quite steady”.

The final mark was 54.1%. I do wish we’d gotten 55% and that final grading point, but it was fair, and I loved the judge’s comments. He asked for more jump, more engagement, noting that she was a little flat and lost unnecessary marks (two incorrect strike-offs – ya think?). But he also said “Rider tried hard on an obedient horse”, which I felt was true and complimentary.

Ultimately I think she could have done better and will once she is fitter. I think she did go better in the double, especially in her changes and transitions and rein back (we almost got our goal of more than 6.0 for the rein back). I also think she will never be competitive at Elementary because I was twelve years old and entirely clueless when I started riding her, with practically no guidance. She’s done wonders considering the hand she’s been dealt, and I remember thinking as we walked out of the arena that this horse would run through fire for me. I’ve given her second-rate training and she has given me her heart, and that’s what makes it worth it despite the occasional disaster.

Thunder6
sassy? Nope. A fly.

Moving onto Thunder, we decided for my dad to stand by the warmup and the show arena with Arwen this time. I wanted to give Thun the best possible chance at a good test considering it was a level up and I wanted to build his confidence with the new movements, and I knew Arwen would be impossible alone anyway, so it was just easier.

Warming up, I knew immediately he was going well. He was relaxed and forward, going down into my hand instead of having to be held at all, and there was a suppleness in his back that makes me excited. As we went on, I noticed that a rider who had also ridden in the Elementary had just come charging into the warmup, looking a bit flustered. She was number 113 and we were number 114, but had already been warming up for a little while. I had done my basic warmup – large, lengthenings, a stretchy circle, some transitions and circles and lengthenings in canter – and was just about to start riding my test movements to finish the warmup when I heard the announcer calling number 113, who hadn’t even cantered yet.

“Can’t you go?” she asked me.

It was a knee-jerk reaction. “No, sorry. I’m not quite ready.”

I headed off, leaving flustered lady to her warmup, but something didn’t feel good in my soul. I paused, and I reluctantly listened to that still small voice. I really wanted a good mark. I really believed Thunder would go better if I could just have another ten minutes. But I knew what Jesus would do, and we dance for Him.

“It’s OK!” I yelled, inelegantly booting poor old Thun across the warmup. “We’re going!”

Thunder3

I don’t write this to boast, because what’s one tiny kindness compared to the ocean of my sin, or to the extravagance of the Love that went to the cross for it? I write it because I want to tell you all how big my God is. I felt His pleasure, and we went in and I rode the best test of my entire life. And my horse was right there with me, doing his very best.

The first centreline and halt was 7.5; he was a little unbalanced, but stepped forward to a square halt. Then our turns at C and B and walk/trot transition at X was an 8.5. Yup. Comment “obedient”. So he is; I wish I was as obedient to the call of my Master as that good-hearted horse is to the touch of my hand. The serpentine was a 7, comment “needs to show more change of bend in body; accurate”. We had a 6 for the stretchy trot, a better mark than before; he maintained his rhythm and did actually offer a tiny stretch for the first time ever in the show ring, so I was happy. His stretchy trot is getting good at home – it’s just a matter of time before he relaxes in the ring.

We were back to a 7.5 for the free walk and a 7 for the first transition and canter circle. Our lengthening wasn’t terribly good, getting a 6 with comment “could be more balanced”. He was on his forehand and stayed there for the transition at A. I panicked about the lengthening and kicked him, so he gave half a canter step and I took a few strides to sort myself out and get a bit of lengthening, so that was a 6: “could show more balance at A and more ground cover”.

The canter transition at C and circle at B was a 7, asking for more uphill and jump. And our last halt was an 8. The final mark was 72.5%. You could say I was quite happy with that.

Thunder1
so so so much better through the neck

The second test started with a 7 for the centreline (“straight; halt could be more balanced”) and for the rein change with half circle (“could show more bend through body”). I fluffed the second rein change with half circle for a 6 (“not quite to X, could show more bend through body”). By this point my brain was also getting kinda tired – I had vowed to focus this time without being nervous, and I did, but it was starting to take a little strain. Our lengthening once again started with a tranter step and got a 6.0, comment “needs to show more push from behind to cover more ground”. And then we had our free walk. And then we got our first 9.0.

Thunder4

Not even kidding. It was fantastic.

The canter transition at M that I had been dreading was an 8.0, “obedient”, and the 15m circle was a 7.5, “could be more uphill”. I got the geometry right this time, though. The KXM rein change with a trot at X and canter at M was a 7.0, again asking for more uphill, but it was better than our downwards from canter to trot have been. The next 15m circle was another 7.5, the canter lengthening another 6.0. By the half circle onto the centreline, I was cooked. I sort of pulled him around any old how and we fell in a heap for 6.5.

Still, it was 71.8%, with super collectives: 7.0 for paces, 7.5 for impulsion (on Mr. Lazybones nonetheless), 7.0 for submission, 8.0 for rider position and aids. I have no idea where he placed because two tired Hydes really wanted to go home, so I just asked for my tests and they were nice enough to give me a couple of placed ribbons (cheers, Equivest!). “What a super horse,” the judge wrote. “Well ridden.” I was so chuffed.

But the story doesn’t end there. Oh no! There were a few more miracles in store for us. As we were waiting for my test and lunch, the owner of a top Friesian stud in our area beckoned me over.

“Who teaches you?” he enquired.

“I jump with Coach K,” I said, “but I don’t really get dressage lessons.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, I can see that.”

I was just about to feel hurt when he offered for me to come over and join his riders in a lesson with their Very Big Name Trainer. Around this time Very Big Name Trainer popped up (I almost wet myself) and announced that this was a good idea and I could even get a very good price “if you do your homework”. I vowed to do my homework, and the next thing I know, this morning Thunder and I found ourselves in the middle of the very fancy arena at very fancy Friesian place with Very Big Name Trainer – OK, fine, I’ll call him Coach J – yelling at us.

img-20171114-wa0008.jpg

I originally wanted to cry because I thought we’d never get good lessons ever again except once a year with Coach S when she fits his saddle, and here all of a sudden we were getting lessons from Coach J and cheaply and I was a little overwhelmed by what God is doing for us. But within the first two minutes I was way too busy to feel anything very much.

Despite seeing mirrors for the first time in his life, Thunny was perfect. We dragged Jamaica along to babysit but Jamaica chilled in the fancy stable and Thunder didn’t miss him at all – he didn’t even whinny once. And Coach J totally failed to hate my fabulous purple bandages. He did, however, roundly kick our behinds.

We didn’t actually do anything that hard, except that we had to do everything perfectly so it was all ridiculously hard. Once Thunny had walked around to have a look at everything and been asked to go long and low and a bit deep to stretch his back, we did a tiny little serpentine down the long side. And then we did a square with turns on the forehand that almost killed us, and then we trotted a 15m circle. That was it. My brain is overflowing with new stuff, and also I am very uncoordinated.

Basically:

  • Inside leg to outside rein.
  • When Thunder wants to be looky, put him in shoulder-fore, flexing him away from the scary thing. This worked well for him because he isn’t really that scared, and being given a job and asked to soften helps him relax.
  • Inside leg to outside rein.
  • Tiny, tiny turns to help him bend through the body more (seeing a recurring theme yet?). They don’t have to be perfectly balanced, but 5m or smaller circles/serpentines in walk to help him release his back.
  • Inside leg to outside rein.
  • On small turns, inside hand to my belly button, not to my knee, to lift his shoulder.
  • Inside leg to outside rein.
  • Absolutely no seesawing on the bit; only solid contact, or small sponges within the contact. I say this to my kids about four thousand times every afternoon. I can’t believe I actually still do it myself. Urgh.
  • INSIDE LEG TO OUTSIDE REIN.
img-20171114-wa0009.jpg
coach J: srsly girl let go of your inside rein already

At this point Coach J had had enough of yelling at me about my inside rein and started the turn on the forehand exercise. We walked a little square, with a quarter turn on the forehand at each end. The catch? No inside rein. NONE. He wanted it hanging, to show me that I don’t need to pull it the whole time. It was at this point that my brain started to fry. It’s so automatic to hang on that inside rein – poor Coach J shouted about it like a million times. Eventually we were doing shoulder-in to turn on the forehand to shoulder-in to turn on the forehand with the inside rein dangling completely loose. Well, most of the time. Except when I was panicking and Coach J had to start all over again.

We moved on then to trotting a 15m circle, spiralling it in and out now and then, with no inside rein – but with bend and connection. It was so hard, but it so worked. Thunder was super willing – as soon as he understood, he obeyed. My inside hand, less so. It’s amazing how one’s own body parts can be less obedient than the half-ton prey animal that is my dance partner.

With that, we were done, and given loads of homework, and sent off ridiculously excited. Thunder has done so well all by himself, with only one lesson ever. Imagine what he can do with the help we have now. We might even do the bigger levels someday; Coach J seemed to think we could do more than EM. I would love so much to even do EM!

Thanks to our beloved King, Whose mighty plan prevails. I am so excited to see where my God is going with this. No detail is too small for Him. I have long since stopped dreaming: I have found that He dreams much, much bigger than I ever could.

Thank You, Abba. Glory to the King.

Thunder2
this salute is only for One ❤

 

CHG Leg 7

The last leg of the CHG Series was two days before Thunder’s seventh birthday.

Thuder15

I had to leave Arwen at home because she was still unfit and not quite sound after a bit of a dodgy trim, so it was Thunny and Rene for it. (Who came second in their Prelim 4 with K, a hard-earned place. I’m so proud of them).

Winstead1
we’re the one with the giant cross on the horse’s face and the other one always wins, except that one time that we did

I decided to ask Thunder to be a bit grown up today and didn’t have K bring Rene over so that he could have a friend while he was warming up. And he responded by being the quietest and calmest he’s been in the warmup. He had a look around when we walked around the first time and then that was it. Straight to work.

Thunder1

I also have inordinate amounts of media for once, so prepare to be bombarded. Here he looks like seventeen hands until you realise I’m a hobbit.

Thunder4

My soul does dressage but let’s be real, my seat still thinks it’s eventing. Sigh. Maybe, just maybe the horse is tight in his neck because my hands are bracing? Ya think?

Thunder2

He had some truly superb moments in the warmup, though. As usual for a show, he was a little stiff and tense though his back and neck. Not usual for a show, he was really, really behind my leg. I wasn’t really concentrating on it because usually at shows I’m all panicking about if any of my whoa and turn buttons still work, so before I knew it, he was BADLY behind my leg and I was nagging madly. Nagging, for the record, does not and never will work on this horse.

Thunder7

His tail is so dressage-y. I love it. The judge made a comment about our amazing earmuffs (more on them later!) and then off we went. The trot work was OK, a little behind my leg but OK. The free walk kind of, well, wasn’t. He can free walk for an 8 (and has in the past) but as soon as he’s slightly tense, distracted, or (you guessed it) behind the leg it becomes a bit of a mess. This judge has a thing about free walk so we got  5.5 for it. Ouch.

Thunder8

In this photo he looks really offended because when I asked for my A-F corner canter left he sort of speeded up his trot and fell on the forehand. I asked again just after F and he ignored me, and then I decided the movement was a disaster anyway so I took the whip behind my leg and gave him a big hiding. He does not need to learn that I won’t hit him for blatant disobedience in the show ring. To be fair, he was a little distracted, and I could have prepared him better, but when I ask for canter he’d better canter. Of course then he struck off on the wrong leg and wobbled all the way off the track, but we sorted it out and managed to put in a circle. It was too late, though, and landed us a well-deserved 4 for that movement.

Thunder10

I felt it coming down around my ears a bit at that point, but I knew that it was one bad moment in what had so far otherwise been a solid test, so we scraped it together and earned a string of 7s for the rest of our trot and canter work, barring a 5 for the stretchy trot (he barely does it at home – definitely not at shows). That was still good enough for 66%, getting us third place. So it was nice to get a ribbon even if we’d had a little disaster in there.

Thunder9

As we headed out of the Prelim 3 arena, the rider before us was only just going in for Prelim 4, so I walked him up and down the path doing walk-halt-walk until he was in front of my leg. I can get him really nicely in front of my leg now, but I have to be very, very diligent about keeping my leg OFF until I actually want something. Then the deal is that I give a tiny squeeze and he must respond. He got one tap with the whip and then realised I had stopped nagging, so then we were back on the same page and went in for Prelim 4 feeling quite chirpy.

Thunder11

Evidently I was still not terribly focused, however. Nothing was truly horrible at first, but nothing was that brilliant throughout the test, either; 6.0s and 6.5s except for a 7 for our final halt and centreline (that was quite nice). The serpentines had the comment “show more bend”, which was disappointing because I know I can get a really nice serpentine from him, he likes the movement and is good at it. I actually really like this test for him but I think I just wasn’t really there for him at that point. I also forgot the test halfway through the canter work and got the -2 there with comment “broke” even though he didn’t break, I asked him to trot. Poor chap.

Thunder12

He also was a tiny bit hesitant going to canter left again, so he got a tap and we managed to get it accurately this time but still lost some marks for the loss of rhythm and balance. Also, almost every movement had the comment “tight neck” and I can really see it in this photo. He’s on the bit, he’s just not connected really, short in the neck, tight in the throat and breaking in the third. He often gets this comment at shows and I’d like to get photos at home again and see if it’s at shows or always. I do feel like he wants to go above the bit at shows and it looks like I respond by jamming my hand down and pulling, which definitely doesn’t help.

Thunder14

I feel like getting his neck long is the key to fixing the other comments the judges keep giving us, like nailing us on the collectives for suppleness of the back and asking for more bend. Anyway, we moved on to his lengthening, where I panicked a little and kicked him and he shot off. It was a 6.0 with comment “hurried” and I know he can do better, so I’m actually quite OK with the mark. If I ride it properly I think it could be a 7 already, which is huge for me because I’ve struggled with lengthenings for ever.

Thunder13
hands!!

At the end of the day it was good enough for 63.8% and 4th. And honestly, between God and Thunny, I’m being taken to a completely new place with shows. At the beginning of the year that minor disaster in Prelim 3 would have brought my world crashing down for a few days and opened the door for major self-doubt and anxiety. But it just wasn’t a big deal. I thought, “Well, that was a disaster” and carried on. I have so much more confidence on this horse. I have so much more confidence and enjoyment since I gave it to God. I look forward to shows instead of facing them with fear and dread; I enjoy them instead of enduring them and whatever place I get, I can hug my horse afterwards because he’s so amazing and God is amazing and I love dressage. I take myself so much less seriously, and thus can compete so much more seriously because I breathe in the sport and breathe out the negativity.

It’s so hard to be anxious, stressed, doubtful, and negative when with every stride I feel this overwhelming gratitude and wonder at the Amazing Grace that saved my soul, let alone put me on the back of a horse with a heart as big as a mountain.

God is with us! Glory to the King.

Thunder3
my boy ❤

 

Sunlands Training Show

Here are some numbers for this show:

8 horses.

1 four-berth.

1 two-berth.

4 trips; one for the two-berth, three for the four-berth.

6 saddles.

Nowhere near enough girths.

No dedicated horse-holders. (We’re very thankful our horsies almost all tie up).

Not one single fall.

One child’s round that I didn’t get to watch. An experienced child, so that was OK.

img_20171022_134716.jpg
nobody else seemed to need this fence, so… we commandeered it, and chaos ensued

We arrived at 6:45am, in good time for our 8:00 class. This was a good thing, since while we had enough fitting saddles for Sune, Milady, Liana, and Savanna, it turned out that we did not have enough girths. A frequent problem when most of the riders are on a bit of a shoestring budget and thus borrowing riding school stuff. We decided to just swap saddles between Milady and Savanna and wing it, so off we went; Liana and her kid, Milady and K, Sune and L, and bareback Savanna following me and garnering some odd looks from spectators.

It was Milady’s first show, as well as L’s, and I was worried about them for about five minutes until I could see that they both had everything under control. All four of us were in the first two classes, the 50cm and 60cm, and there was some friendly ribbing. My money was on Liana and her kid; the kid loyally trusted me to win on remedial Savanna, and I think K and L were simply hoping to survive. In the end we all were wrong. Milady jumped a confident, quiet round, well-ridden by K, except both of them sort of weren’t looking at the second element of the combination and had a run-out there. Liana’s kid rode so, so nicely with excellent lines and position, but tapped the pole at number two. Savanna got to number two and then threw a hissy fit, whereupon she got a hiding and finished the track much better than she ever has before, taking a couple of poles. I was very happy with that – it’s the first time she’s actually gotten around without a leader.

img_20171022_101008.jpg
so confident!

Then Sune and L charged around in a perfect clear round, despite L firmly believing she wouldn’t remember her track, and thus handing all of our butts to us. There was more of the same in the 60cm; Milady, Liana and Sune all went clear in the first round, and Savanna had a pole, but I was very happy with her because she was confident, forward and relaxed. In the jump-off Milady and Liana had a pole each, but both their rounds were smooth and confident, so I was happy. Then little Sune and L charged around clear once again, albeit out of the placings because I had given them a Speech about going safely and building confidence.

img_20171022_101631.jpg
all smiles ❤ ❤ ❤

Then it was off to the working riding and small jumping classes. Trooper and E kicked off the little classes by trotting sweetly around the ground poles, although E kind of forgot that fence 3b was a thing, but it was a good warm-up for their working riding round. Poor little Sune was shunted straight off to be ridden by her kid in the 30cm and 40cm. Regrettably, the track was exactly the same as it was last month, and Sune’s kid is one super-smart little eight-year-old, so it wasn’t very good practice for remembering the track since he remembered it perfectly from last time. Either way, that led to a clear in the 30cm and an unlucky pole down in the 40cm.

Trooper and E absolutely knocked it out of the park in the working riding. Their course was fairly technical and all-inclusive: walking underneath an arch, then through a bendy little lane, halt and pick up a basket and walk around a marked-out circle on the ground before returning the basket, trot the bending cones, trot the trotting poles, walk through another lane, walk over a mat, go to a pillar and ring a bell. Troopy didn’t look at a thing, not even the mat. E didn’t quite kick him hard enough to trot all of the trotting poles, but their bending poles were absolutely perfect. I couldn’t be happier. And I haven’t seen E smile as much as when she’s around Trooper, ever. Mission accomplished; Trooper’s doing what only a horse can do for a teenage girl.

img_20171022_103242.jpg
picture perfect

Midas and VT’s kid also did a stunning test, Midas’s first. He did everything so perfectly except for the mat, where he just gently stopped and had a look. I popped in at that point and stepped onto it in front of him, and then he went over very happily and quietly. VT’s kid rode really very well and I was happy with the pony too; at the very least I know he’ll be excellent on a lead rein, and he’s quite good enough to get a solid mark off lead. I think she would have gotten him over it eventually.

Then poor Midas and the kid had to go charging straight off to the showjumping to jump Midas’s first 70cm. It was a speed class and I was calling dressage tests so I wasn’t there to tell the kid to go slowly, so obviously they tore around in a very confident clear round, coming fourth against some truly enormous horses (the whole of Team Nissan seemed to show up that day). So I couldn’t be much happier with that.

Somewhere around this point, Dad returned with the second load of horses, very timeously too, I might add. Ash was one of them, and her kid had plenty of time to trot around the warmup (and almost get killed by some of the aforementioned truly enormous horses – luckily Ash is a sassy little boss mare) before going in for their test. Savanna’s kid was also warming up and Savanna was being impressively calm and relaxed. I dragged them both down together so that I could keep an eye on each one and pushed Savanna and her kid in first.

Both boys were having their first show (apart from our little training show), and they both impressed me greatly. There were a few good moments and a couple of wobblies (Savanna broke in her first centreline and her kid kicked her to trot too early a few times; Ash didn’t really get the memo about having to halt on her last centreline and her kiddo’s legs were a bit flappy) but neither of them got lost or had any huge disasters. Ash and her kid had 64% and Savanna and her kid had 59%, which they both were happy with. Both have lots of work to do before they can ride anything other than a SANESA Riding Proficiency test, but I’m confident that they can go out and enjoy themselves at SANESA Level 0 next year. If they work hard they can get good marks, too.

At this point I was supposed to have been in the working hunter/stadium eventing arena on Jamaica about 45 minutes earlier, and had resigned myself to missing that one, but the judge there kindly let me go anyway. I cantered him around the warmup once (wearing Savanna’s bridle because his bridle was on Ash; I’m very grateful for his unfussy little mouth), popped over a jump, tied a knot in the end of the TREMENDOUSLY long reins, and off we went. The track was only about 60-70cm at the biggest, but fairly challenging, including a couple of banks down, a bank up, steps, a dyke with all three fences in it, a little ditch, a combination, some brush, and a whole lot of straw bales and rustic fences and such. He had a big wobble at the first fence because it was next to a water jump, but once he realised he didn’t have to do the water jump he was quite OK. He had another wobble at the brush the first time, but after jumping it once he jumped it nicely the second time. Somewhere around fence 10 he hit his stride and started to enjoy himself, as did I. I really want to event again.

Then we had a little break before going back to the warmup to climb awkwardly over the oxer and wait our turn in the 90cm competition. At this point, I had reached that mildly delirious stage near the end of a show with lots of kids, and could not really care less what size the jumps were. I just walked the related distances in the class so that I knew the strides and watched somebody go so that I knew where to go, and in we went. After cruising on a bigger stride in the stadium eventing arena, it was quite natural to send Jamaica more forward, adding only one stride in the related distances (which I don’t mind since he is almost a pony jumping on horse strides), and thus the round was very smooth. We landed on the wrong leg a few times and I was slow to correct it, but he still jumped every fence right out of his stride. There were a bunch of puddles in the arena and one of them was right in front of the second element of the combination, so he chipped in a stride looking at that, but the rest of it was fantastic.

It was the only clear round, too. So we got a big fat red ribbon.

img_20171022_133713.jpg

When I schooled him for this show and we couldn’t get a good stride to this one jump I literally remember thinking to myself, “Well, God, You got me through my Module 4 and gave me a very confident ride in that exam, so I’m not asking for anything more right now; I can lose my nerve again now,” but God’s reply seemed to be, “I’m not done working miracles yet, My daughter.” The 1.00m didn’t look all that big when we watched it as we were packing up.

Dad, meanwhile, had already shipped Milady, Liana and Trooper back home, and returned within half an hour of the end of my class to take the rest of us. We were all happily home by four in the afternoon, although how Dad did it is between him and God because I sure don’t know.

This year has been all about what God can do. Even at this little training show, He helped us to run it so smoothly despite not having enough tack or horseboxes or horses. Somehow He gave me an excellent ride and helped all the newbies to have a good show and – best of all – all three my rising stars got to ride, having somehow scraped together sponsorships and kindness from various sources to be able to have enough show clothes, entry money, and horses. All three of them. I am so, so happy to be a witness to the majestic spectacle of what God does when you give it all to Him.

So here’s a few more numbers for you to wrap up this post.

17 classes.

3 rising stars.

Innumerable great supporters.

And one amazing God.

img_20171022_071224.jpg
L and Sune, Milady and K, Trooper and E

Glory to the King.

Q3 Goals Recap

I’m so honoured to be working with these gifts from God. ❤

Arwen

wp-image-1326113475jpg.jpg

  • Get points for Elementary Medium. Almost there! We need ten, and we have nine. I’m pretty sure our next show in the end of October will get us that last one, since we have been just breaking 60% now, with the exception of the disastrous test last time. Our scores have slowly crept up, but it’ll be at the next show that we see if our hours of schooling have made an appreciable difference yet.
  • Don’t mess up a show riding/show hack class. 
  • Jump a graded 80cm round.
  • Do some cross-country lessons and/or go drag hunting. I want to do this so badly, but logistics may not allow. We’ll see. It’ll be fun to do the boxing day hunt, maybe with a friend. God willing, though. I don’t think we’ll go back to eventing; I can’t justify the expense on a horse who isn’t really going to be fast enough to be good even at the lower levels, although I’m not denying that we had so much fun during our eventing year.

Looking towards next year, I’m still going up and down a bit between continuing with the dressage – either trying to improve the Elementary or give EM a shot – or going into showing again, since she is really good at it. It’ll depend on the logistics. Either way, my dragon gives me hope. ❤

Midas

wp-1502813423255.png

  • Hack alone and in company.
  • Be quiet at shows. 
  • Compete up to 70cm showjumping at training shows. Next show! He’s schooling it at home under VT’s kid and the two of them have been cruising around 60cm.
  • Compete up to Prelim at training shows.
  • Compete at the Nooitie shows. 
  • Go cross-country schooling. The training shows we go to have a nice working hunter/stadium eventing course, and I’m considering popping him around it myself at the next one, depending how busy the show looks (spoiler: it looks very busy). Again, eventing isn’t really on the cards for us next year, so I’m OK with not achieving this one.

Midas is on the market and I do hope he sells quite quickly. It’ll be very sad to see him go; he’s one of the highest quality ponies I’ve had, and so much fun both to ride and to teach on. But it’s time for him to find his own little person to have adventures with now.

Faith

img_20171003_070737.jpg

 

  • Stand for grooming and farrier.
  • Lead and tie up. 
  • Box well. Like a dream! Took a while, though.
  • Be good to bath. 
  • Be good to catch. 
  • Show in-hand. There don’t seem to be any Nooitie shows for the rest of the year, so that’s been blown out of the water a bit. Next time we have space in the box for a quiet show or outing, I may drag her along.
  • In spring, lunge.
  • In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.
    She goes into training in November. I don’t think the groundwork will take long, although I am going to take my time about it, since she’s smart and already knows me well. In fact I could probably have at least walk/trot under saddle by December, but I’m not going to push it. If I condition her carefully now it could have repercussions for the rest of her career.

I am SO excited to put Faith into training at last. She’s starting to look so beautiful and behave so maturely, and this little gift from God has so much to teach me.

Jamaica

img_20170728_185145.png

  • Hack reliably in company
  • School Novice dressage. Done! I haven’t actually ridden the tests, but that’s not really relevant for him.
  • Jump 90cm graded. We can’t afford graded right now, but I am totally calling this done. We jumped 90cm at a training show and the course wasn’t soft and he absolutely killed it. Good boy!

Next year, our plan is to work towards jumping Module 5 (1.00m… eep) towards the end of the year. To do that, we’re going to do equitation and jumping at SANESA, so we’re starting to work through the 90cm equitation tests.

Lancelot

img_20170726_123139.png

  • Reliably do long hacks alone, in company, and wherever without any drama his kid won’t laugh off.
  • Do a training show or two at Prelim dressage. 
  • Consistently jump graded at 70cm, preferably clear. 

Lancey has been taken out of training and passed on to his kid because he’s become such a solid citizen. One of the most pleasant horses in the yard – and a firm favourite with everyone, both to ride and just to be around. It’s hard not to feel loved in his presence.

Trooper

screenshot_2017-08-27-17-25-54.png

  • Do training showjumping shows, up to about 60cm. We’re not going to push him for this right now. I think he’s just not ready for it – because every time we aim him at a jump he crashes through it and knocks his legs and gives himself a fright, poor chap.
  • Do training dressage shows, up to Prelim.  He’s schooling Prelim at home, but has done walk/trot at shows. Again, I’m not pushing it, because his plans have changed. See below.
  • Be as safe as a house on hacks, mostly in company.
  • Be as safe as a house on the ground. Anybody can handle him, including the tiniest of kids, without any trouble.
  • Be fully quiet at shows. He’s just the same at shows as he is at home – with his buddies, away from his buddies, in the stable, wherever!

Trooper originally was supposed to be a resale project, but with Stardust still being in rehab from her injury and a big hole left in the riding school with her being out of work, as well as Lisna being sold, we’ve ended up keeping him for E. They’re a solid match and looking forward to their first show together this month, too.

Thunder

wp-image-93225262jpg.jpg

  • School all the Novice work, ready to compete next year. We basically only school Novice work except when we’re test riding and polishing for shows these days. His lengthenings are our main focus, mainly because I’m really no good at them, but they’re coming on well. He’s done most of the leg-yields and counter canter, and the figures are easy enough. We rode the whole of Novice 1 quite nicely this week and will continue to work through the Novice tests as we go on.
  • Jump 70cm courses with confidence. Fast he is not, but confident, definitely. He doesn’t bat an eye.
  • Do our pre-flatwork short hacks calmly. I’ll be honest, I haven’t really worked on these. Mostly because my time with him is so much fun that I’m being a little bratty and not wanting to ruin it by going for a hack and having a bolt. However, I’m going to start on them next week. We’re doing so much better together lately and I feel like if he does bolt I can stop him now. I’m also going to hack at the end of a session instead of at the beginning, so that his brain is engaged by then.

I’m excited for Thunny’s future. My morning rides on him are almost always therapeutic; we get lost in the dance, and he seems to enjoy it just as much. He’s even turning into a good citizen lately, who stands quietly in the stable and stands tied to the horsebox at shows and just generally behaves pleasantly. I love him to pieces. ❤

Further up and further in. Glory to the King.

WhatsApp Image 2017-10-02 at 12.58.42 PM(1)