Magic’s 2017 Goals (or lack thereof)

Year in, year out, I have faithfully set a careful string of goals for all the horses – as long-term readers very well know. I think this may be the first year ever that I haven’t set any goals for Magic.

And I don’t intend to.

Last year was a rollercoaster with him. It started with his promising comeback after his terrible illness in 2015, winning both his first graded classes in fine style and staying absolutely sane throughout the show. Then it all came down around our ears a bit when I fell off him three times in as many months – my first falls off him, ever. We were heading in the right direction again when he decided he would like to have colic again after all and then the outbreak crashed any plans of returning to shows after that. All in all, he only had seven outings this year – and I stayed on top for five. (Of the ones that I stayed on, he jumped all clear rounds, barring one, which he won anyway). It was an unimpressive year, except that it wasn’t.

We made very little progress, training-wise. 80cm still looks about the size of the Great Wall of China (to me anyway; he’s good). Our flatwork remains low-level but rock solid. We go to shows and jump some jumps, sometimes, or not, as the case may be. But in terms of understanding this shining, suffering enigma of a horse, we made giant, groundbreaking leaps. Subtle, but groundbreaking.

I figured out the most important thing I could have, to help him. I figured out why he has panic attacks and how I can get him out of one when it’s happening. Anyone who knows anyone with PTSD knows how huge that is. To be able to look in his eyes when they’ve gone glassy and the horse I know and love just seems to be gone – and to know why he’s gone, where he’s gone and how to get him back… that’s tremendous. I feel like I can finally help him. I have finally found the hole that he falls into and how to get him out. After years of helplessly watching him leave into a terrible inner world that seemed to mentally torture him, at last I can break down those walls and bring him back to safety.

It’s so simple and self-explanatory that I’m amazed I didn’t see it long ago. Then again, if it was that self-explanatory, horse PTSD wouldn’t be the only thing we can deal with better.

I get in there with him, and I show him the way out.

In the face of discoveries like these – things invisible to man, but oh so important in the sight of God – the goals I’ve been setting just can’t compare.

For my own guts, I think it would be good for me to try and jump him higher. If he was always the Magic he is when he’s okay, he’d pack my butt around and teach me that jumps bigger than 70cm are not deadly and evil. Even when he is having a moment, he’ll jump 90cm as happily as he’ll jump 60cm.

But it’s not about me.

He needs a perfect rider. He needs a rock-steady lighthouse of a rider that can show him the way out of fear. He needs someone who’s never in a hurry, or in a bad mood, or focused on something other than being there for him. He needs someone who cares way more about him than about anything else. I so much want to learn to be that rider, not only for my training skill, but for my living skill. And I’m just not that rider when I’m scared.

Even if I did push him, he’s all of nine years old and already has bony changes in his withers. He won’t be sound forever. I don’t know how many years I’ll still be able to go jumping stuff with him. Maybe three? Four? I don’t want to spend those years fighting in order to jump mediocre heights badly.

I want to spend them listening to that horse’s soul. Because it tells me things about God and people and bullying and mental illness and myself that I really need to learn.

Goals can’t hold a candle to that.

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the day we came third won champion of the universe

Midas Goals 2017

While I didn’t officially do goals for Midas last year, he had a successful three-year-old year despite having a late start. We have lots to do this year to achieve what I like at the end of the four-year-old year, but I’m pretty confident in the little chap. He’s got this.

  • Hack alone and in company. He’s quite brave and obedient, and for a sale pony this is quite a non-negotiable – what kid wants a pony that won’t hack?
  • Be quiet at shows. This includes overnight in the stable.
  • Compete up to 70cm showjumping at training shows. I’m being ambitious now, but let’s see what this guy can do.
  • Compete up to Prelim at training shows. This at least I am good at, so we should be able to do this.
  • Compete at the Nooitie shows. Because Nooitie shows are epic.
  • Go cross-country schooling. I’d love to event him in 2018, either myself or under a child.

The sale pony business is still a learning curve for me, so once again my goal setting is based largely on an educated guess. But we’ll see what happens. Or at least, I know exactly what’ll happen: God’s plan, in all its pure perfection.

Glory to the King.

Arwen Goals Recap

Can I just say that this year was wildly successful? Got that? Good. Because looking at the goals list… it was a disaster. But the fault lay only in my goal setting. Really.

This year she won almost everything she entered in the Nooitie classes, including six championships. We jumped our highest class yet and finished it on eight faults. We got our points for Elementary and boosted our scores a little, too.


Our goals were admittedly a catastrophe, though.

  • Go double clear at EV70. Womp womp woooomp! Epic failure here. And this goal was the realistic one. We did get extravagantly eliminated again, though. Also we kicked butts at stadium eventing 70 and completed the 80, but yeah. This is our Number One Flop.
  • School Elementary Medium 1 and 2.
  • Compete Elementary. In setting these two goals, I forgot three important facts: 1) dressage is hard, 2) lessons are hard to find, 3) levelling up once a year when you’re a newb like me is only possible if you spend most of your time on dressage, not eventing.
  • Gallop through water. We at least did this?

It’s interesting to see the difference in my success rate between Arwen and Exavior. I think the thing is that Arwen is always stepping into uncharted territory. I’ve just never schooled a horse to this level so I frankly haven’t a clue what’s going to happen next.

Exavior, on the other hand, is a starter and he might be a rather huge and dumb one but I’ve done so many starters that the process is practically second nature by now. I’m intimately familiar with the steps, the issues, and the time frame. Hence, realistic goals. Amazing how things go well when you actually know what you’re doing.

So let’s shoot for something more realistic in 2017, but I’m prepared to fail. If I’m not failing, I’m obviously not learning anything.

2017 is going to be Arwen’s Year Of Dressage. Partially because we have now discovered she’s actually quite good at it and partially because I don’t have anyone else to dressage with this year. Through the past year, I also shifted my focus to dressage as the discipline I’d really like to be high level at, so we’d better get started.

Long-term, I do want Arwen to event again, either in 2018 or 2019. I have a feeling she’s going to be sound for ages yet, but I would like to retire her to stud in 2 or 3 years. First she must do super well in dressage and then please, pony, just jump clear across country. Then you can go have babies.

  • Get points for Elementary Medium. Even if we never actually do EM, we at least should be established and respectable at Elementary.
  • Don’t mess up a show riding/show hack class. There’s a partbred mare that I doubt we’ll ever beat, but we can at least try complete a class without bucking or throwing our head. That should land us in second place or so.
  • Jump a graded 80cm round. She can already do this – we just have to actually go and do it.
  • Do some cross-country lessons and/or go drag hunting. I’m still holding out hope that we’ll event again.

I thank God for this treasure He’s letting me borrow right from His personal stables. Glory to the King.

Exavior 2016 Goal Recap

Going into this year, I honestly thought Xave was going to be an unmitigated disaster. And he was, for a while. I have (obviously) gotten attached and couldn’t bring myself to sell him but he was threatened with being packed off to a lease home that liked his particular brand of crazy, because I sure didn’t.

Then he had his “brain surgery”. There is a reason why we call it brain surgery. Within two weeks the evil alter ego that charged, bit and trampled people seemed to evaporate and my big, dumb, sweet goofball was back in full force.

In terms of goals, almost all of these were achieved in the last three months. So that’s a win.

  • Bathing. Done! He hasn’t had a proper bath yet, but he gets hosed off after work and behaves like a grownup. Still moves around when his hindlegs get sprayed, but nothing that’ll prevent me getting them clean.
  • Loading. Done tolerably well for a horse that had a horrible boxing accident. He doesn’t like two-berths but he’ll box if someone gets behind him, even if he is sick and I am panicking (trust me, I know).
  • Continued improvement on injections. Well, he’s still an unholy terror to inject, but he hasn’t gotten up on his hindlegs in ages. Vaccinating is now relatively uneventful. Bigger shots require someone strong on the halter and a lot of local anaesthetic cream, but it is possible.
  • Lunging over poles. Nailed it. Slightly raised poles in all three gaits.
  • Introduction to small free jumps. He flomped over them up to 70cm in a disappointingly calm manner; I was hoping he’d do some Grand Prix jumper stuff and be all pretty.
  • Backing. Done! I got on, he went to sleep.
  • Basic aids in walk. We went one better. We have some rather floppy walk aids in a halter, and we have equally floppy trot laps of the ring.


This year’s high success is mostly due to the fact that our goals were freakishly low (like, I get this done on a sale pony in like 2 months maximum) but I’m nonetheless happy. Despite being vastly too much for me, he is quite on track for a barely three-year-old warmblood colt.
Next year is a little more serious. I’m setting goals as if he’s an ordinary horse I can handle, because right now he is acting like it, but that could change. And if it does, we’ll roll with it, even if I need to send him to the Mutterer for a few months. Exavior is worth it.

  • Continued improvement on injections. This is gonna be here for many years, I think. Just a slow process of not making a drama out of it might get us to some form of normality eventually.
  • Show in-hand without rearing. We are aiming for Horse of the Year in February, which may be a little ambitious but I guess we’ll find out! He behaves fine at home in the big field with other horses around, so it would be great if he’d stand and trot up nicely at the shows too, but as long as he doesn’t scare me I’ll be happy.
  • Hack. Even if it’s just to the big gate and back. This goal has me quaking in my boots but it’s gotta be there to make him a Good Citizen, although if it scares me too much I’ll pass. Some battles aren’t worth it.
  • By June, have 3 gaits. This isn’t a big ask for any normal horse, but Xave loves to push the boundaries of normal. I’m putting this here to keep it realistic. I don’t want to put pressure on, but I also don’t want to be stuck for ever with him. If he doesn’t have 3 gaits by June, he goes to the Mutterer.
  • Around his fourth birthday, attend a few training shows at walk/trot and Prelim. I so dearly would love to do YDHS in 2018 on him, and he needs to be solid at Prelim by February 2018 under pressure by then. The earlier we compete, the better.
  • Ultimate goal: be solid at Prelim by the end of the year.

This horse is nothing but a miracle so far. I hope my worldly plan for him is in line with God’s; but if it isn’t, then may God’s amazing and flawless plan prevail. I’m so excited to see what that is. Glory to the King.

Q2 Goal Review

So it’s a little late, but better late than never, right?

Nell

  • Qualify for the Provincials at the Young Horse Performance Series.
    – Done! We needed two completions and we have three. So we finished last at two of them (and won the last one! … OK, so nobody else showed up), but who cares? We’re going. The logistics are going to be a bit fun, considering finals are on the same day as the Jacaranda Nooitie show, but at least we can cross this off our list.
  • Compete, graded, at the higher Novice tests.  I’m calling this done. We did Novice 4 and 5 graded and Novice 6 at YHPS, which is a similar standard. We’ll continue to compete higher Novice for the rest of the year to get our grading points (one down, four to go).
  • Go to a jumping training show at a low level. Eh, maybe after YHPS. We at least can jump now, but every time I do a jumping training show I find myself with a horsebox full of kids and ponies, so we’ll have to see.
  • School lower level Elementary successfully. We’ve done most of the movements, but I’m not crossing this off until we’ve done a couple of complete tests at home.
  • Compete in any available Nooitgedachter shows.  In the process of doing! We’ve done two out of the three annual Nooitie shows and are tentatively aiming for the third one – with YHPS finals being on the same day, it’s a bit complicated.

Arwen

  • Go double clear at EV7o – Still aiming for this one. We did go double clear at a stadium event, but that doesn’t quite count. Our next full horse trial in August will be at EV60 to build our confidence, then we’re back at EV70 if it goes well.
  • School Elementary Medium 1 and 2 – We’ve done some of the movements, but not the full tests just yet.
  • Compete Elementary –  Not yet. We have most of our grading points and have happily schooled the level, so it’s just a matter of getting out there.
  • Gallop through water –  Done! At a schooling, not a show, but we came down a bank, through the water and over a fence without breaking rhythm.

Magic

  • Finish getting back the topline muscle he lost when he was sick.
  • School Novice 4, 5, and 6. We’re so close to finishing Novice 6, too. None of our tests are awesome – we’d be very hard put to get 60% – but all I want is for him to benefit from the flatwork schooling, so just doing the moves as well as we can is fine by me.
  • Make 90cm our comfort zone at home.  – We were so close! In fact we were popping 90cm at home and now we’ve taken it back down a few notches. It’s no fault of my precious Magic’s; he could probably do like 1.20m right now with his eyes closed. However he needs his nervous saddle monkey and after our little tumble a few weeks ago, I’m not there yet. So the journey goes, and so God makes something more amazing through His plan than anything I planned for.
  • Show graded at 70cm.
  • Show at 80cm, graded or training. –  We were close to this one, too! We may still do it yet. Magic certainly can. We just need a few confidence-boosting rounds at 70cm first.

Exavior

  • Bathing. –  There’s been improvement, but we’ll finish this up properly in the summer when he won’t hate me for spraying ice water on him.
  • Loading.
  • Continued improvement on injections.  Yay! He is still by no means an easy critter to inject, but we’re progressing. He just had his AHS shot and when my helper and I caught him he smelt a rat and went ballistic, but after about five minutes of reassurance, he decided that he wasn’t going to be injected after all so he stood perfectly still and didn’t even notice when I slipped the needle in. It’s all in his empty little brain. We’ll see how he does with his next shot in three weeks.
  • Lunging over poles.
  • Introduction to small free jumps.
  • Backing.
  • Basic aids in walk. –  Ugh, I so want to get on this horse now! His groundwork is done apart from poles and jumps. I literally just have to throw a leg over him and teach him to whoa, go and turn. But with his still being entire, working him isn’t feasible at the yard right now. As soon as the colt is a gelding we’ll bring him back and I’ll probably be able to finish this in a few weeks.

Taking every second of this year as it comes, hand in hand with the King ❤

2016 Goals: Arwen

I realise it’s kind of late to be setting goals, but they’ve been in my head for a while, so I may as well now put them down on paper. Screen. Whatever. I enjoy having a plan for the year with each horse, but God’s plan is sovereign – and He always knows best.

Arwen’s 2015 Goals

Arwen4

  • Get her fit – Done. She was easily fit enough for our last event.
  • Build her upper neck muscles – Done. Her muscle tone has never been this good, to the point where I asked the Mutterer what muscles need building up for the upcoming showing show and he replied in tones of deep disappointment, “Well, actually, none.”
  • School Elementary Medium successfully – Failure there, but our Elementary work is a lot more solid. Her schooling has improved, just not to EM level.
  • Introduce scary-looking jumps – Done. While we have been having really disappointing stops in competition, at home she’s jumping the spookiest things I can build without batting an eye.
  • Have her go through water more easily – Done. She didn’t stop at water all year.
  • Show graded in EV70 – Done. We showed in three, but only completed two.

2016 Goals

  • Go double clear at EV70. Face it – at this level, you win on your dressage score. Arwen’s dressage is very solid. We could do really well if we’d just stop incurring jumping penalties, especially stops on cross-country. This will take a whole lot of schooling, and a bunch more cross-country lessons, so I’m pretty cool with only eventing again in midwinter or spring. Another jumping show or two can also only help our confidence, or even competing at EV60 once or twice more.
  • School Elementary Medium 1 and 2. This is very achievable, especially with how solid her Elementary work is getting. It is, however, going to depend on how soon we get our new 20×60 arena done. Our current one is about 15×50, making it impossible to make an accurate half 10m canter circle. The more complex the figures get the harder it becomes to ride them here. She will also have to make the transition to a double bridle, which might be a bit tough.
  • Compete Elementary. We can totally do this. She could do Elementary 1 with her eyes closed. We just need to get enough qualifying rounds at Novice first, so this will also be an end of the year thing. Even if we just do the ungraded class at the Pretoria Nooitie show – it’s something.
  • Gallop through water. She goes into water just fine, but she always drops to a walk. Now we just need to school her confidence with keeping her gallop rhythm through the water and we’re good.

Lord, not what I will, but what Thou wilt.

Halfway There: Goal Review

So according to the logbook I keep of all my rides/sessions, I finished 616 sessions so far in 2015. The majority of this will be riding, but there’s also a lot of lunging and long-lining and free jumping in there, and loading and halter training… and if I have to hold a particularly difficult horse for feet/teeth/whatever, I count that, too. Cuz I can.

That’s about 300-450 hours, which is cool but I can do better. So maybe in the next half I shall!

Anyway, wannabe brag material aside, here’s a review on some real goals:

Arwen

  • Get her fit – Gotcha! She’s lost a tad of fitness now, with being a little under the weather over the weekend and having a slow week due to rider having to be in two places at once, but nothing major. To finish with 0.4 time penalties on cross-country at Springs, especially considering how spooky she was to the jumps, she’s got to be fit enough for her level.
  • Build her upper neck muscle
  • School Elementary Medium successfully – We knew the dressage goal was going to be the slow and tedious one. Still hammering on this. Dressage ain’t a thing you can really force, so we’re not too panicky about achieving this – quality work over chasing levels.
  • Introduce scary-looking jumps – We can keep working on it, but we haven’t had a stop in competition since March. She’s getting much more courageous. We worked on solid skinnies and spooky tires at home.
  • Have her go through water more easily
  • Show graded in EV70 – We did AND IT ROCKED. Okay, so there was no dressage, but who’s counting? We were 8th in a class of 31. I count that as achieved.
Achievin'!
Achievin’!

Exavior

  • Complete advanced halter training
  • Leading over, through and under scary things – Busy on this, but not quite done with going over spooky stuff yet.
  • Leading away from his group – We’ve got this. No screaming, no jogging on the way back, no napping. I’ll take it.
  • Bathing – We got halfway with this and then winter came; we’ll resume in summer.
  • Desensitisation to noise and sight  – I flapped my jacket all over him. He went to sleep. Mission accomplished.
  • Loading preparation – work in progess; I still want him to go over a tarpaulin.
  • Loading
  • Injections – Some improvement, but we’re not there yet
  • Be gelded – Probably going to be postponed to next winter.
  • Lowering of the head when requested by pressure on the halter
  • Basic lunging with a halter and long line only – This is fine.
  • Leading from the right – I totally forgot this (it’s been a few years since I raised my own baby) but it’s a handy skill. Working on it now.
  • Wearing a roller
  • Lunging over poles
  • Preparation for clipping – I don’t have clippers yet so…
  • Wearing boots – All these lunging-related goals will most likely will be left for next year unless he suddenly matures a lot. Being a warmblood, he’s really not at the same level of physical or mental maturity as Thunny was when he was this age. I’m using my work with Thun as a baseline because it’s the best experience I have, but while Thunder knew all this by the end of his second year, Exavior isn’t going to get there. I want him to get on the horsebox, lead from the right, and walk a few nice laps on the lunge and then he’s going back out of work for a little while, maybe even to the end of the year, except for a couple of baths and talking about injections. No point in cooking a baby brain, and he can go out and horse for a while with no damage to his people skills.

Magic

  • Improve fitness
  • Tie up – He will still fly back if something truly upsets him, but he now stands tied really nicely for his grooming every morning and if he steps back and feels the pull, he yields to pressure instead of losing his brain. Honestly, few horses will stand tied under pressure, and the skill isn’t important enough in my situation to break even more halters and potentially necks. I’m okay with him now; daily tying for grooming will serve to improve this skill gently over time.
  • Load
  • School Novice – I’m going to call this one a win, for a horse that is probably never going to compete in stressage. I practiced Novice 1-3 on him over and over again preparation for Arwen’s show and he was really good, even with the French link on. Leg-yields are also almost there, after all, Novice only requires H-L level of leg-yields.
  • Survive a hack – We went to the end of the road and back without dying, but that doesn’t count as a hack, so I’m not crossing this out just yet.
  • Be confident at 80cm
  • Show graded at 70cm showjumping – We jumped a terrifying and wonderful clear at 70cm at a training show, so we’re making our way towards this! Our next show will be 50cm, 60cm and 70cm again, and then I’ll play it by ear as to whether we do 80cm next show. My criterion for going graded is single and simple: I want him to walk into the arena and know exactly what he is supposed to do. No point in paying the earth to take a spooky baby to a show and have three stops by the second jump. When he goes in and says to me, “OK, I know what we do now,” then we can move on to graded. The height does not seem to be an issue but he likes to halfway stop at his first few fences every show, so I want to eliminate that first.
Less of this babyness...
Less of this babyness…

Thunder

  • Fix his mild tendency to get in your space
  • Get him to stand dead still for a bath
  • Introduce flying changes – Ugh. I suck so much at flying changes. SO MUCH. I can’t get them out of Arwen yet, so poor Thun hasn’t even really been asked for them yet. Still striving for this but I won’t force him and make him worried.
  • Introduce rollbacks
  • Improve on sliding stops, spins and rein backs – This is an ongoing goal but we’ve already made HUGE improvements. Like, we actually slide in our sliding stops! Spins are at least a little smoother if reeeeaaaally slow (Friesians don’t do fast until they spook), and rein backs are appropriate for his level, we get 10 steps in style and 15 sloppy steps if I beg.
  • Log as many trail miles as possible – Work in progress. I am getting so tired and bored with hacking alone, but it’s just a matter of making myself do it. As soon as I have a really cool hack horse again I’m sure my motivation will get better, but I need motivation to get that really cool hack horse ready!
O summer coat, when dost thou return?
O summer coat, when dost thou return?

All in all, I’m quite happy with our progress so far, mostly because not only have we been getting results but we’ve been improving relationships. And ultimately, that’s what horsemanship is all about. Glory to the King ❤