CHG Leg 4 Goals

I have never been so relaxed the night before a dressage show. I suppose it makes sense; tension seldom goes hand in hand with either worship or dancing.

I still care too much about scores. But this week’s dressage rides have been… something other. Some of them were still the run-of-the-mill awful. But as we went on, there was an upward incline, towards the light. I focused less. I laughed more. I turned my Jesus music up loud and sang along. Judging by the swing under the saddle, the horses? I think they liked it.

I still worry a bit. There will be a judge out there who’ll eventually tell me that Arwen and I don’t belong in Elementary. And they won’t be wrong. But we’re not here to belong.

We’re here to dance.

Arwen’s goals: ride the tests from memory without too much trouble. Get a grading point or two (55% or more). Attempt to avoid setting the judge’s box on fire.

Thunder, on the other hand, has been feeling amazing, technique-wise. The stretchy trot wasn’t that hotshot this week, but his canter is about a thousand times better.

Thunder’s goals: show an improvement in his scores (last time 66% for the same tests). Subject to baby brain falling out of his ears, of course.

Firn’s goals: show the fruit of the Spirit. By my fruits I will be known.

Show love to the horses and the people.

Revel in the joy of a God-given day, even if it collapses into perfect chaos, as they tend to do. Let it be a joyful dance, a praise to His Name.

Be at peace with the fact that we’re not perfect and neither is anyone else.

Be longsuffering – be patient – with the horses, students, grooms, and fellow competitors.

Be gentle. Let each aid be as soft as possible, every word as kind and polite as can be managed.

Be good; treat fellow competitors justly, be good about the warmup arena rules, don’t push for a ride time that’d suit better.

Have a little faith. God’s got this.

Employ meekness; submit to parents, judges, marshalls, and the needs of others; surrender every breath of the day to God.

Have temperance – self-control – and don’t allow negative emotions to become negative actions when they arise (they will).

Tomorrow and every day, so help me God.

I can’t wait.

Glory to the King.

Show Photos

HOY pics by Meilleur Ami Photography; SANESA pics by CanterPix

Prepare to be spammed: I have been holding off on show photos despite being something of a media junkie, and then the SANESA photographers were cheap and good, and then the HOY photos arrived, and now I just have so many pretty pony pictures.

First up, HOY. Because this photo might just be my favourite one of Arwen to date. This was the general breed show hack class that we almost placed in because this horse is amazing.

Arwen1a

You won’t believe how much work went into this picture or how freaked out I was. Totally worth it.

Now for Midas at HOY.

Midas1a

His connection was still so dodgy here.

Midas2a

It was so nice to be able to see the judge past the horse for a change.

And then Sunè at HOY, being grand champion in her class of one, but taking the opportunity to exhibit her bombproofness anyway.

Sune1a

And now for SANESA, starting with adorkable Lancey.

Lancelot1
ah, the graceful Arabian

One day he’ll know what legs are for and become more photogenic.

Midas doesn’t need to learn anything about what knees are for.

Midas1

Or anything about being photogenic.

Midas2

And now I present to you one naughty Appaloosa being buried to a lot of fences…

Jamaica2
love this angle
Jamaica5
so I kinda like the deep spots and he is tolerant
Jamaica7
also he tolerates me hanging on his poor face
Jamaica8
hunting the next fence
Jamaica11
somebody wants to jump bigger (clue: not me)
Jamaica10
good boy Maica

Too blessed to express. Glory to the King.

Long Hack

After SANESA and with the long weekend looming, everyone’s been in a bit of a holiday mood.


And around here, that means only one thing:


Hacking!

I think my kids must hate me because I’m still not so happy with cantering with kids on hacks, but this managed to be a lot of fun for all concerned, regardless.

We headed off in a bunch: L on Stardust, Sunè and her adorable kid, Liana and her kid, Vastrap and his kid and Lullaby bringing up the rear, peeved at having to pack my fat behind around.

Accompanied, as always, by the ever-faithful Ice. How he manages to keep up on those little legs, not to mention running after all the fieldmice and smells that catch his fancy, nobody knows. But I love that he’s always right beside us.

Sunè is just a superstar. Her kid is only eight and tends to get distracted and forget where he’s going, instead choosing to drop the reins and admire the view, but Sunè never minds being left behind and just ambles patiently along. Shouts of “Catch up, buddy!” spur the kiddo to flap his legs and Sunè happily canters to the middle of the ride and then flops back into walk without being asked.


Needless to say, spooking isn’t even in her vocabulary.

Isn’t creation amazing? It always awes me that God didn’t just make a world that was functional and complex and amazingly engineered down to its last atom, down to the deepest miracles of science. It would have been enough if the world was just incredible, if creation provided us as creatures only with nourishment and necessities. But because He’s a God of love, an Artist and a bit of a Poet sometimes, He didn’t just make the world good. He made it beautiful.

Dusty, of course, was her reliable little self – albeit pulling somewhat on the way home. The dentist saw her today and sorted out her bit seats so he said that’ll help but honestly I think she was just kinda excited.

Even Liana and Vastrap, traditionally hot on hacks, plopped along very happily and enjoyed the view.

It’s a beautiful thing to be a kid with a good chestnut mare and miles upon miles of open space at your disposal. I know because I was that kid. Nostalgia.

A good little bay mare will do fine, too.

Look at those little faces. If you want to make your kid happy, buy them a good Nooitie.

Glory to the King.

Gauteng Nooitie Show

Once again, I failed badly when it came to media. On the bright side, I finally have some photos from HOY – which I will share with you once I’ve decided which ones to actually purchase.

Either way, the show happened, and our horses totally rocked our socks.

After lots of predawn schooling and panicky last-minute test learning, Arwen and I came down the centerline at Elementary for the first time ever. I was tense as anything, but it became a dance between God and Arwen and I and when we halted after our last tense I was a little dizzy and could barely recall what actually happened. I remember we fluffed our simple changes, but I don’t remember scoring a couple of 8s and a bunch of 7s – which we nonetheless did for 63.8% in Elementary 4 and 67.6% in Elementary 5. I still don’t believe it.

Her working riding was a little dragonish but totally fearless and well-mannered. We were the only ones in the class, but I was really wishing there were some bums to kick because I think she would have kicked them.

She jumped a slightly crazed and very messy clear round in the 70cm to win it, followed by taking a pole in the 80cm. That was my bad. She was fearless and jumping effortlessly, but the judge had scolded me for our messy round while pinning our ribbon on for the 70cm and it messed with my head, so I started to pick at her and ask for lead changes at the wrong kind of moments. She took the pole when I was hanging on her face and after that I let her do her job and she jumped easily.

Midas did Prelim 3 and 4 with me in the irons and dazzled me greatly by scoring in the 65-66 zone. He was inattentive at moments and squeaked for his buddies a few times, particularly in the second test, but he happily did everything I asked and nailed a 7 for his super awesome little canter. We also got lots of comments on being accurate, which was lovely. Having the dressage arena probably pushed up every single mark by .5 or so. It’s also rather easy to ride into the corners on all 13.1 hands of Midas.

He also jumped his first round under a very skilled kid at 60cm, taking the spooky fences in his stride. Regrettably he ran out of the second element of the one-stride – poor chap is still trying to figure out how to get his teeny legs to fit one in a horse one – but he came back to jump it great and finished strong. He was also dead safe for the kid.

Renè and Sunè did pairs together; it was a bit of a mess and K and I couldn’t stop giggling but it was fun and we were alone in the class so we got pretty satin out of it. Renè wasn’t having the best day but still managed to do everything she was asked in a safe, calm manner for fourth in hand and working riding.

Sunè competed under a kid for the first time and did great, most unsurprisingly. The little kiddo wouldn’t quit kicking her so our show riding was a little more fast-paced than desired (especially by huffing, puffing, sprinting me), but he looked super up there and remembered his test perfectly. The working riding was even better. I rode her in working riding too, and I think she would have won it except she wiggled a bit as we stepped onto the mat and knocked a flowerpot over so that wasn’t too good. Everything else was foot perfect.

It was a super fun, low-key little show and perfect for wrapping up our showing season until Spring Show. For the next five months, it’s dressage, showjumping and SANESA galore – and we’re ready for it. Facing our giants and honouring our God.

Glory to the King.

Thank You for Arwen

Sometimes it can feel like the horses in my life never come easy. I’m not complaining, because easy never made a good horseperson (or a good person, for that matter). Hard is necessary. But hard is exhausting and can be demoralising.

And my big-dream horses have all been hard. Except Arwen.

Nell and Reed got sold out from under me. Ryka lost his mind. Magic has different priorities. Rainbow died. Exavior is still a question mark. They all made me grow, as a rider, as a person, and I wouldn’t change any of it, but none of them were ever constant.

And then, there’s Arwen.

Always in the background. Always playing second fiddle. She was Magic’s understudy, then Nell’s sidekick. I didn’t even really want her in the first place, I just started riding her because nobody else was. There was no vibrant, verdant, dramatic love affair or Hollywoodesque magical relationship like I had with the others.

But always, steadily marching on, there is Arwen.

Her championship understated after Nell’s three. Her many wins paling in comparison to Nell’s success in YDHS. Lacking Magic’s jump, Nell’s trot, Reed’s quitness, Ryka’s presence, Exavior’s size. But abundant in the one thing they all lack and the one thing that makes her an anchor.

Steadfastness.

So the dragon pony marches on, undefeated and constant, the one horse I trust to the ends of the earth, the one that doesn’t go lame, the one that shows up every single day for the past eight years ready to do her job.

The one that’s got my back and just deals with it and carries on and never lets anyone tell her what she can’t do. She’s got this. I rely on her, and she doesn’t let me down. She slays those dragons and faces those giants and will not be stopped.

The others have all had their rollercoasters and dramas and disasters and behind it all, Arwen soldiers on.

So Lord, I thank You for all the others too because they teach me so much and they mean so much. But tonight, I thank You for Arwen. A horse who can smell Your plan for her and marches on undaunted. A mare of God that puts this daughter of the King to shame sometimes. Terra firma under my feet when it all slips. But only an instrument in Your almighty Hand.

Thank You God for Your unspeakable gift. I resolve not to be unappreciative of Your blessing again and recognise her for what she is: the best horse I swing a leg over every day.

Good Narwie.

Glory to the King.

HOY on the Horizon

I learned my lesson from the disastrously chaotic Nooitie shows last year: now we’re preparing early. Horse of the Year starts in a little over five weeks and we’re already in a flat spin trying to sort everything out for it. We’re going to be stuck there all week, competing every single day with nine horses and five handlers.

Liana, Vastrap and Renè are going with their respective kids. L and VT have done it all before and will be just fine; Renè is a good old Arop Nooitie mare, viz., she will also be just fine.

proud of each other

I also have fair amounts of confidence in Zara and Tara, since they’re just doing in-hand and were ready for it in the end of November (we were meant to do a coloured show, only it cancelled).

Arwen, obviously, has totally got this. Arwen has always got this.

so let’s play in water instead of practicing

No, my worries are the three babies that are just about to start their career with me, beginning with the Pre-HOY training show in a couple weeks.

Exavior is going to his first show ever. Just in-hand, obviously, but six months ago I couldn’t even get him out of his field without him trying to jump on my head. He’s been lovely to handle at home but I’m not totally sure if that will carry over to the show environment. So if you see a giant chestnut streak galloping about with a little flappy rag doll on the end of its lead, that’d be us.

Midas is inspiring more confidence than I’d expected; the poor little chap has had so little saddle time but he’s been entered in show riding at Pre-HOY and hopefully will do show hack at HOY itself, too. But despite my initial misgivings, he’s pretty much there. Three good paces, simple changes, starting to connect himself nicely. Quite good enough for a first show at novice methinks.

can’t stop laughing

Sunè completes the lineup, and I do have some trepidation about her. Since I’m not able to ride two horses in one showing class she won’t be doing ridden at Pre-HOY, but I would really like her to be ridden at HOY so I can sell her easier. In-hand she’s also still very green and wobbly, but that at least should be OK. We’ll see what she’s ready for and take it at her speed.

Glory to the King.

Faith Goals 2017

Faithy is the very definition of a blank slate: she wore her first headcollar the day we went to pick her up at the breeder’s. Until then, she’d only really known people to wave to. She’d been fed and occasionally put in the crush to vaccinate and brand, and that was it.

Growing up in a huge field with loads of other horses has given her a good brain, good digestion, and wonderful feet. Just the way I like them. Now she’s a two-year-old and after some bribery I have convinced her to like me and let me rub her face and neck (provided I feed her first), so that’s where we stand right now.

also snuggles

Ultimately Faithy is to be a really good dressage horse, God willing, although this year will be about the basics.

  • Stand for grooming and farrier.
  • Lead and tie up.
  • Box well.
  • Be good to bath.
  • Be good to catch.
  • Show in-hand.
  • In spring, lunge.
  • In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.

I’ve yet to really get to know this lovely little lady, but knowing Arop Nooities and their legendary temperament, I think she’s going to be just awesome to work with.

All I know now is God made her and I love her. And I guess that’s all I really need to know.

Glory to the King.

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.

Golden Pony Updates

Last time I wrote about the little golden dude, I had just put his first saddle on him and commented that soon I’d be swinging a leg over at the rate he was going. For once, I was right.

Poor little Midas has been progressing slowly through the months for only one reason – the hapless creature has found himself being a resale pony on a schedule full of paying clients’ horses, so he always ends up being the one that gets missed when the wheels fall off. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that working intermittently with a newly-backed isn’t the greatest idea, but the little guy has been holding up just fine. Every session is better, every time we figure out something new and he just gets it. He’s been an absolute pleasure.

I was very relieved to find that his attitude issues on the ground do not happen under saddle. He’s not bad – just late gelding, little pony stuff. Pulls his ears and pretends like he doesn’t need you. A teenage boy packaged into 13.1 hands of sassy pony. But I never let him get away with any of that under saddle, so he never does any of it.
I love his gaits, too. The walk is brisk, forward and together, just the way I like it; the canter balanced and powerful, and fairly supple with the leads. His trot is dead boring but that’s no matter considering I’m aiming for him to be a good jumping pony. Besides, you can always school a trot to be good.

The only health problem we’ve had from him so far. He was fine when I tacked him up and like this when I got off. This is the most dramatic hives I’ve ever seen. It was gone by that evening after some cortisone, but the poor little chap was quite miserable!

We have just progressed to cantering laps on the correct lead out in the big arena/glorified field. He tossed a buck here and there when he couldn’t figure out his leads, but as soon as he got that worked out the bucking stopped. Typical confused baby horse stuff, he’s not going to be a proper bucker. He’s also a little on the spooky side. We’ll have to see how that changes as he grows up and gains confidence.

I can’t fault his intelligence and trainability. He really tries, and he’s got a lot of material to try with, both in physical ability and in brainpower. Definitely a very firm favourite with me, I look forward to competing him this year, starting with Horse of the Year and SANESA in February. After that, wherever this epitome of a pocket rocket takes us.

After selling Bruno came the best thing about resale: getting to go shopping for a new one. It took me ages, but I finally managed to find a registered young Nooitie mare who was all of 13.3hh. Also sweet-natured and a flashy mover, the little lady had colour to boot: meet my new little golden pony.
Sadly, it hasn’t been quite the fairytale that it was with Midas. He arrived with all his ground manners and basic citizenship skills. She was unhandled when I met her, but the breeder offered to get her halter trained so that we could box her easily. I gratefully accepted. Huge mistake. Pony was unhandled when we met, but now she is violently terrified of people. Sure, she’ll follow you around on the end of a lead – if by any chance you can catch her. Which takes me half an hour, in a stable, with food, on a good day.

Her registered name is too similar to some of the other horses’ to use, so we just call her Nugget because she’s a little gold nugget. And she breaks my heart. She was so soft-eyed and uncomplaining and now she’s torn between terror and desperate aggression. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a horse actually do what the books say they do – turn aggressive when cornered. She’s not a bad girl; her whole body just screams fear; she truly believes she’s fighting for her life.
Poor little soul. I wish I could speak her language better so I can tell her that she’s safe now, that nobody will ever hurt her again. Maybe it wouldn’t do much good even if I could. These things aren’t mended by what you say, I suppose. It’s a longer, harder, better journey of loving action after loving action, and I pray to God that I’m up for it because Nugget doesn’t have other options.

She deserves better. She will get better.

God willing. Glory to the King.