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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

SANESA Q1


This past weekend was our first go at SANESA as a yard. I coached a teenager through it last year, but she keeps her horse at home and knows what she’s doing, so this was a whole other kettle of fish – and I was riding two sale ponies myself. So it was a little hectic.

Regrettably, I also have practically no pictures, so I’ll keep it short.

Vastrap and his kid were fabulous in the 60cm showjumping, their first jumping show since his kid’s injury last year. VT was his superb self for a pole in the first class and a very poised 5th in the second. Since I threatened his kid with no-stirrups until she was 80 unless she kept it quiet and controlled, I am happy. We can now move on to adding some speed.

better than you and they both know it

Liana and her kid did not fare quite so well in the 50cm jumping. Ana herself was super, not having a single run-out all day, but they got a bit lost during the first class and then went beautifully in the second until the turn to the last fence, when the kid thought the pony would turn a bit sharper than she did and they parted ways. No harm was done (despite the best efforts of some less well-trained medics – I’m not the biggest fan of the venue where they had this qualifier), but it was a pity because I think they could have won it.

Zorro and Z-kid had their ups and downs. Zorro decided to be afraid of straw bales, the only thing that differentiated the working hunter course from the showjumping course, and got himself eliminated. They came back strong for a third in the jumping despite his napping towards the gate. These two will be a force to be reckoned with once Zorro pulls up his socks and behaves.

Outside lesson kid from last year on her fantastic mare Pennie had an unpromising start in the working hunter when Pennie threw in a stop; she had another stop and a pole in her first jumping class, but then got a hiding and started to make better life choices. Pennie jumped fabulously the second jumping class for an unlucky pole in the jump-off that landed them 4th, and then went on to win the equitation in fine style.

when this retires I’m stealing it for a broodmare

Working student K and Renè were fantastic despite poor K having the sniffles. They won both classes (performance riding and working riding) and Renè was her usual admirable self.

Sunè was also muchly admirable and won her working riding with a score of 81. This pony is amazing.

Sadly I didn’t make it to my performance riding because I was coaching. Or not sadly. I’ve had it to the eyeballs with show riding for this month, thanks. Midas still had dressage and showjumping to do so we were still busy. His dressage felt really good – he was shouting a bit but relaxed as long as he was moving, and had really great moments. I have no idea what we scored (see above re: not my favourite venue), but I liked how it felt.

His showjumping was great. I have a penchant for entering POG or 40cm for a pony’s first jumping class for the simple reason that I can make them walk over it if they stop, but something possessed me to do the 60cm on this chap and he didn’t bat an eye. I overrode every fence mightily and he jumped them all with enthusiasm and a slightly injured air (like, geez lady, I’m jumping, relaxed). He had a green pole in each class, but I’m perfectly happy.

He also rode in a two-berth for the first time when we hitched a lift with the Z-kid’s family, and I kinda want to say he didn’t load well, but basically what happened was he stopped at the ramp and a ten-year-old girl went behind him and slapped him on the bum and he went in, so I don’t think that qualifies.

A busy show but our God went before us. Glory to the King.

HOY day 4

Sorry y’all – chaos, once again, has descended upon us, but here’s a brief recap. Professional photos to follow! (I hope!)

Thursday was coloured horses day, but our class was only at 13:50, so first we exercised all the horsies and hung out. Renè in particular was not a fan of the whole stable thing, but she was angelic to ride.

so professional here at Morning Star Stables

Arwen’s leg hadn’t blown up at all in the night. I put her on the lunge line (in the parking lot, for fear of destroying somebody’s fancy horse in an arena) and she went ballistic for 20 minutes. After that the leg was dead normal and Arwen was greatly satisfied.

Narwie wanna cookie

Midas and Renè schooled together, so obviously Midas was angelic. He didn’t bat an eye at anything and even jumped some reasonably sized fences – 60-70cm – in the abandoned warmup arena.

I also rode Tara one last time. She and Zara went back to their owner after the show, but we had a really excellent ride. I did lunge first, but she really didn’t fuss at all.

awwww T ❤

The class itself was really wet, which was a pity because Rain and I put a lot of effort into the turnout. Zara was a little up but not bad at all, and both girls behaved well in the bucketing rain but didn’t really place anywhere.

the judge doesn’t like my cross quarter marks. I don’t really care.
Rain’s first tail plait – for real

Then we all went back to our overnight place (thank you overnight place people! You know who you are!) and fell in a heap. More on the Nooitie day and supremes later, because I am about to do the same.

Glory to the King.

HOY Day 3

Today was the general breed ridden day, and it started with no rain and also almost no traffic. Unfortunately, from there it took a spectacular nose-dive when we pulled Arwen out of the stable to discover that her near hind fetlock had blown up like a balloon in the night.

puffy fetlock. also note amazing abs

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I can count the number of injuries this horse has had in the past eight years on one hand, and still have fingers left over. I found a few superficial scrapes on it, but it wasn’t tender like a typical bruise and she was one hundred percent sound. I can only think she must have knocked it in the night and it filled more than would be normal for a mild knock because she was stabled. Either way, sound or not, it wasn’t going into a showing class. So with a very heavy heart I scratched her from the working riding.

I really thought we had a chance to place well, so it was a huge bummer and really got me down for a bit. But in retrospect, I can only think that God seriously did NOT want me riding that class. And it’s not for me to know why, so – even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.

We spent the morning exercising all the frustrated horses, who weren’t appreciating being stabled. We were without any grooms, so it was Rain and I for it, so she hand walked Renè while I rode the sound-but-puffy Arwen. She was feeling absolutely fantastic. Rather dragonish and leaping about madly at first, but when I realised she was sound and started to school her, she threw herself into her work with that amazing enthusiasm only she has.

We pulled Midas out and schooled him for a bit, too. He was as usual very very noisy away from his buddies,

shouting and jogging

but also very obedient, and stunning in his nice moments.

overbent, but more like it

When I looked again, it was time to frantically bath and prepare for the flat classes. We iced Arwen’s leg every hour and kept her walking, and the swelling came right down. The more she worked, the better it looked. By class time, it was practically gone – and she was raring to go. I left poor Rain to frantically plait and tack up Midas while Arwen and I went for a nice long warmup.

Again, she started out electric and very hot, but focused. I’ve begun to realise that the tension and bounciness I feel at shows is generally not anxiety of any form from her. It’s excitement. This horse loves to work, and she loves to compete even more. She fairly dances with anticipation of doing what she loves. She’s never more obedient than when she feels excited, and her gaits become suddenly expressive. I just have to relax and roll with it, then she feels amazing. I finally figured this out as we were warming up and from then on she was wonderful.

We hurried back to the stables to wipe her sandy legs, slap on some polish, and quarter mark a cross on her bum. Putting that simple shape on her shining haunches put the whole world into perspective for me, and when we walked into the ring I was beaming with spontaneous joy.

Arwen enjoyed the class greatly and was an absolute pleasure to ride. She was responsive, forward and obedient, slept happily in the lineup and did her individual test beautifully. We had only one wobbly moment when I asked for trot-canter in our individual and from a medium trot she gave me extended instead, but we got the transition and the lead in the end. I guess we’ve been schooling a lot of walk-canter for Elementary this year. Oops.

Apart from that, I could not have asked for better. We returned her to the stable quiet, content, and glowing. She looked so pleased with what she achieved. We finished just outside the placings; when the judge lined us up we were standing in fifth, in a terrific strong class.

so beautiful ❤

Midas was pretty much the same in his class as he’d been to school. Obedient and with nice moments, but he never shut up or stood still for a second. We were placed right at the bottom, but I was happy with how safe he felt. Tense sure, but he didn’t get strong, just really fidgety. There were some very loudly snapping flags beside the arena too, and he didn’t turn a hair. Good little chap.

no more fat fetlocks for you, young lady

That concludes the general breed. Tomorrow it’s coloured with the pintos, and after that, Nooities. Glory to the King.

HOY Day 1 and 2

As is obligatory for prep day before an important show, Monday dawned icy and bucketing with rain. We sat in traffic for hours, but we made it there safely and in time – head groom T, the two pintos, their owner and I.

pinto plaits kinda funky

As it continued to pour outside, we got the plaits done with moments to spare. The rain, if cold and inconvenient, was beautiful – the thirsty earth seemed to suck it right in, ready to produce its bounty. Less poetically, Tara had mud all up her legs when we headed for the ring.
in which my plaits did not fail

This did not appear to hinder her too much. She behaved absolutely impeccably, not turning a hair at anything and even standing quietly for inspection. Not bad for a baby at a first outing in icy rain. She came second to Zara handled by T, who was a little skittish but quite sane and obedient.

Zara went on to win Supreme Sport Horse of the Year in hand, which was fantastic and definitely a good start to both her and T’s showing career.

post-class selfie feat. fantastic browband

Today was even colder and wetter. We had to be in the ring at 8:00 for the first of our general breed classes, so to beat the traffic we were out catching horses at 4:00. In the pitch dark. And the pouring rain. Needless to say, they were less than cooperative. Renè refused to be caught for the first time in her existence and Exavior reared four times and slipped his halter. One way or another, they all managed to box quite well albeit naked but for poll guards, so off we went. I was wondering what had possessed me to think this would ever be a good idea, but then again, it wasn’t my idea. It was God’s, and He’s got it all figured out.

The traffic was still not on our side, so plaiting was a rushed affair on a plunging dumb warmblood (not my finest hour – after getting leapt on top of and trampled, I swore at him. Loudly. Not cool, Christian girl) but we got it done and headed for the show ring.

I don’t have a middle-of-the-road when it comes to Exavior. Either I think he’s the best and most beautiful horse in the world, or I want to kill him with my bare hands. Plaiting involved much of the former, but he proceeded to be angelic for his actual class. A bit bolshy and fidgety, of course, but no rearing or stupidness. To my pleasant surprise, he placed fifth, beating a more mature horse and a nice youngster.

Midas’s first in hand class was straight thereafter and he seemed to be bent on exploding my eardrums. He really wasn’t bad, but hadn’t had time to settle and wanted his buddies so he whinnied the whole time. He did trot up and stand OK, so that was good. He ended up unplaced, but his competition was strong and much older and didn’t attempt to burst people’s eardrums.

K plaits Midas

Next there was much frantic plaiting as K prepped Renè and with my li’l sister Rain and T doing the plaiting and me doing the parting and stitching, we managed to get the pintos and Arwen all ready. All four of us were showing in the same class, hence I had roped Rain in to show Arwen.

insert wolf whistle here

Arwen was a little overexcited, but the two of them looked incredible and performed at their best for seventh of fourteen in (in the judge’s words) a strong class. I was extremely chuffed, given that Arwen had kicked some very nice butts.

the mane comes to pt of shoulder when loose. how??

K’s superpower is plaiting; she managed to cram Renè’s torrent of mane into the most beautiful little buttons. Renè’s muscle tone isn’t quite there yet, so they didn’t place, but she behaved beautifully.

Tara also didn’t get a place, but she was once again bombproof and obedient as they come. Some lucky ammy is going to have the best time ever on this pretty mare.

Zara and T placed 9th, a very respectable position for Zara’s age, and she was very quiet too. Although I was chuffed that Arwen had done so well, it did mean that Rain beat all three of us – so now we owe her chocolate. And now she must show my brats in hand for me because obviously the judges like tall leggy blondes. (Who doesn’t?)

We settled our junior groom in, undid the manes, and kissed the ponies good night before going to crash at our overnight spot.

It had been such a challenging morning and I’d been tired, frustrated, despondent and disappointed but walking into that mares’ class with four horses was just a brilliant feeling. Financially we should never have been able to do it; we have limited facilities; we don’t buy super fancy horses; I’m not an experienced or particularly talented coach or rider. Yet two years ago I was sitting in the grandstands and the yard was nothing but a wild hope. One year ago we only had three horses that could show at all. And this year we walked into a class with four beautiful horses that I was honoured to present in that important class.

It sure wasn’t me that got us this far, and I don’t have to worry about getting us further, because it’s always all been God’s doing.

Thy will be done. Glory to the King.

Pre-HOY rocked!

Despite an ominous start on Friday evening, beginning with Exavior rearing repeatedly as I tried to bath him and ending at about 10:00pm after driving up and down and half the horses escaping their stables, Pre-HOY was amazing.

I suspect it was amazing because it started so badly that I immediately realised I was not going to cope and gave the heavy burden to Somebody strong enough to carry it: my Daddy God. And He obviously did what He always does – miracles.

grown up travel stuff

It rained all day Friday, so bathing them all was rather a problem. Mercifully, the pintos scratched, and we had a two-hour window that afternoon that enabled us to bath Vastrap and Midas and do something about Exavior’s grubby socks. At that point, the bays, Liana and Arwen were just going to have to cope.

yeah so they all looked like this

We boxed Midas, Exavior, Renè and Sunè up that evening. They behaved remarkably well and settled in nicely, so while we ran around sorting out our poor junior groom’s tent they were pretty much unobtrusive.

The next morning, their good behaviour had run out. Renè, Sunè and Exavior were busy trying to climb into the resident horses’ stables to steal their breakfast and harrassing the resident grooms while Junior Groom stood shellshocked and stared at them and Midas shrieked with indignation, abandoned by his buddies but unable to climb out because he was too short.

pretending to be good ponies

We stuffed them back inside and managed to keep them there while I scrubbed Sunè’s sock and got Xave plaited up. He behaved remarkably well and I began to think maybe my head wouldn’t be kicked in after all.

Shortly thereafter, Dad arrived with Arwen, Liana, and Vastrap. VT had been turned out in a muddy field all night but miraculously he was positively glowing with cleanliness. Small miracles.

so white!

And with the turnout more or less done and everybody behaving great, off we went to compete.

Exavior, despite my misgivings, was a superstar. I had a very long lead and a whip and a helmet and I didn’t need either of them because he didn’t even think of rearing. He was much too worried about his surroundings to sass his mother, so barring one huge spook, he was respectful and listened to what I said. Everything else in the class being like ten years old and fat, he came stone last, but I was just chuffed with how well behaved he was. Wherever this rollercoaster ride with him is headed, God is definitely steering.

Next there was chaos as the in-hand for the Nooities had been combined, to my great consternation. My kids were on the ball and all marched in perfectly turned out and right on time. I arrived late, red-faced, breathless and having scratched Midas, with Sunè very wide-eyed on the end of the lead, her mane sticking up in all directions.

I was a dishevelled mess. Sunè, however, was a trooper. She didn’t look at anything, she didn’t fidget, and she didn’t bat an eye at being shunted into a new arena with a panicking trainer. She was the youngest and most nondescript in the class so obviously the kids and their gorgeous ponies roundly kicked our butts, but I couldn’t be happier with her. Vastrap ended up coming second and going to supremes, with Liana and Renè third and fourth. (No, my mom is never going to let me hear the end of it).

We went back up for show riding in convoy; Liana and her kid, Renè and yard rat K, and Midas and I. I expected Midas to be nutty because he hadn’t had a class to do in-hand or even get out of his stable all day, but he was phenomenal. Even better than Bruno was at his first show. He remembered his training, he focused, he didn’t spook, and when he got looky he just dealt with it and carried on.

Liana’s kid was very nervous – real little perfectionist, so I sympathise – which made sensitive Liana very nervous too, but with the help of K’s mom they scraped it up off the floor and came a well-deserved second in the strong class. It takes a lot to pick yourself up like that. Renè and K were third, with Renè being completely relaxed and indifferent to everything despite it only being her second outing ever.

Midas remained awesome despite having to do his simple changes in the middle of a giant puddle and he won the class, being the only one in the partbreds. In the enormous Supremes class he was shouting for his girlfriend and got a little strong when all like 30 of us were cantering around and circling and overtaking, but the second I asked him down to trot I got it. I was endlessly happy with him. Couldn’t have asked for better at a first show.

first satin for little palomino dude

Show classes done and dusted, we moved on to the working classes in typical Morning Star Stables fashion; wildly excited riders, Arwen bucking and snorting because she hadn’t had time to warm up, and K running up wailing because her numnah had gone AWOL at a critical moment. In between the madness, Arwen jumped her working hunter round. Well, let’s just say it would have been a good showjumping round. She galloped, sideways, at the fences snorting fire at them; I hung on somewhere in the clouds of smoke emanating from her nose, and she ate up every fence barring the down bank combination. There she had to stop and check how high it was before launching directly forward, almost leaving me behind. Our gallop was blinding but somehow I managed to get her down to a very quiet halt for the judges, who sat there and stared at us, aghast. We did not place well. I had the best time ever, and so did Arwen, who proceeded to merrily chomp on the grass beside the arena when I untacked her for the conformation.
Working riding wrapped up the day with Arwen, Vastrap and his kid, and K and Renè. The course was fairly challenging; beginning with fairly scary raised trot poles, then a line of gigantic white umbrellas we had to weave through, followed by a barrel with a truly scary giant pink cow on it. The cow had to be picked up and carried at a canter the five strides or so to the next barrel. Then there was a highly spooky brush lane with a black rubber mat in it and a small jump made of straw bales. Last, we had to halt and dismount onto a wall of black boxes before leading our horses away.

Renè was first of the Morning Star horses to go and did us very proud. There’s not a lot of horses that can do working riding at their second show, let alone with poise and composure. She turned up her nose at the poles, plopped happily around the umbrellas, and didn’t mind the lane, the jump or the wall. She did have a very good look at the scary pink cow, but K was patient and let her have a sniff and that was that. They didn’t manage to canter with the cow or I think they would have placed well.

Vastrap coped beautifully with the difficult course. He actually trotted the trot poles this time, had a little look at the lane and took a minute to stand still by the wall, but his kid was glowing when they finished and he took great care of her.

Arwen slept the whole time in the lineup, punctuating this by throwing her head and yawning massively. I was feeling my late night and in-hand classes, so I basically did the same, barely waking up enough to watch the kids go. When it was our turn I made a bleary effort to rouse Arwen for the trot poles, but she still clonked them roundly. Then we aimed for the umbrellas and suddenly she lit up. Dragons to kill! Certain she would spook, I kicked her; she broke to canter for half a stride and then I realised I had to basically just hang on and steer. So that’s what I did. It took all my effort to hold her down to trot for the lane and umbrellas because she was so excited and dragoning magnificently. The cow posed no problem; my steering did, and we overshot the barrel by half a stride, which we remedied by performing a perfect turn on the haunches. Of course, the jump and the wall did not pose any problem for this dragon. I’m not totally sure that working riding horses are supposed to get excited, but at least she wasn’t in the least spooky.

Apparently the judges enjoyed this new take on working riding, though, because beautiful Arwen was reserve interbreed champion in a strong class. I could almost pop. God so knows what He’s doing. I miss Nell, but she’s in a happy permanent home now. And now Arwen gets her chance to shine.

And shine she does.

so much satin

Glory to the King.

Why I Fear Showing

We leave for Pre-HOY tomorrow and I’m terrified, for the dumbest reason.

I’m not worried about boxing nine horses there and back – I trust the drivers. I’m not worried about the horses – they know their jobs. I’m not worried about the kids – they’ve worked hard. I’m not even that worried that Exavior will knock my brains out (OK, so I’m a bit worried about that, not gonna lie).

evil but so cute wow
Oh, no. I’m worried about what they will think.

I’m so worried about what they will think when Exavior loses his brain and pulls away from me and kicks the judge or something. She can’t handle him. She’s no horsewoman.

Or what about when somebody notices how scuffed my saddle is, or how the girth really doesn’t match either the saddle or the horse? What does she know? She’s such a newbie.

Or when everything dissolves into chaos and I arrive in my class with my collar sticking up and Midas galloping about with his nose sky high? She’s not good enough to be a trainer!

And you know, all of the above could quite probably be true. It could be impostor syndrome or it could be sense or whatever because right now I don’t really care. Because I don’t know what they think or how it’s gonna go on Saturday or whether or not I’m coming home with my brains in my head (although that would be nice).

or when they throw the turnout stuff everywhere. Let’s focus on the tail instead cuz I finally figured out how to do it
Here’s what I do know, and these are the truths I will hold up like a shield against any fear or doubt that tries to come between my kids and horses and calling and me.

God made me yard manager. He wants me where I am. I gave my life to Him and this is where He’s put me so by His power in me I’m gonna get this done.

I’m nineteen years old. I’m showing horses I produced, and kids I teach on ponies I produced, against some of the top riders in the country. My best horse was for free. My most promising youngster should have been dead twice over by now. Our yard has faced outbreaks and financial crisis and more drama in a year than some yards deal with in a lifetime and we’re still here, nineteen-year-old wet-behind-the-ears manager and all.

less evil and more cute
So they can think whatever they want. We’ll be late and our ponies will act up and our kids might spill Coke on their cream breeches (just kidding, that’s my signature move, they’re generally more sensible) and maybe Xave will rear and run away too but we’ll SHINE. God got us here for just one reason: to shine for Him. For our King Jesus, we will shine. We’ll keep our eyes on Him and we will shine.

And I’m so excited to go do that.

God’s will be done. Glory to the King.