The Best Baby Horsie

I have SO MUCH to write about and so much media that it’s a little overwhelming. Thunderbirdy has been his superb self, charging through the EM work already with great gusto, revolutionising his canter, and just being my bestest dance partner.

But today I want to gush some more about my Faith pony.

First, she actually looks like a horse now, which is a great relief. Not a super pretty horse, granted, but at least something horse-esque. We’re approaching her four-year-old year so mercifully it should be all uphill from here (SHOULD).

Her training is going great. Physically, all we’ve really achieved is a canter where all the legs go in the same direction and the ability to trot over poles.

All the training we’re doing right now is emotional. We’re talking about how standing still is a safe space, too. About how nothing I ask her to do is painful, and about how the thing I want is the easy thing.

We’re discussing how new things never mean punishment, but are neutral or result in praise when dealt with quietly. We’re talking about forward and straight.

Most of our rides are spent sparking these kind of conversations using obstacles or going on outrides. We’ve done little working riding courses and “jumps” (crosses small enough to just trot over). In fact, she’s more than ready to go into a connection and start learning throughness and bend. She just needs her teeth to be done first. For now I have her in a Nathe and ride on a long, floppy rein.

In the interim, we have quiet conversations about respect and patience. We acknowledge each other as strong-minded young women who both have valid opinions and realistic needs. Every ride, we’re learning to trust each other a little bit better.
We’re keeping it conversational. We’re keeping it fun.

I love this horse on hacks. She’s just a baby but she’s such a genuine baby – a nice, normal baby horse with no baggage and no vices who just loves to work. She prefers to lead, with her little ears pricked and her stride long and swinging through her whole body. Sometimes we still have our babysitter go in front for scary things, but she’s pretty good about everything. She has an honest little spook and if she’s unsure she just stops and has a look until she knows it’s safe.

Soon we’ll start bending and connecting and test riding. For now, we go on hacks. We fool around on a loose rein. We ride bareback. On Sunday, we’re going to her first ridden show. We’re doing ground poles, but if we just unload and stand at the show quietly all day, that’s cool too.

It’s not about what we’re doing. It’s about what we’re talking about. I’m in no hurry and I allow no one to prescribe to me what my journey with my beautiful baby horsie is supposed to look like.

The only opinions that matter are my horse’s and God’s. And I’m enjoying every heartbeat with them both.

Glory to the King.

On a Happier Note

For all the pain of the past few weeks, there has been a lot of joy thrown in there as well.

his first show hunter class, which was awesome except he wouldn’t gallop but I didn’t care

My precious dance partner has been a huge source of it. Our lessons with Coach J have been fantastic; we’re schooling movements I’ve only ever dreamed of, planning to ride Novice 4 and 5 next weekend and easily skipping through the tests. I’ve never felt so prepared for a competition and yet also never felt less obsessed with it. What God does for me on that horse’s back every morning is incomparable to a simple horse show.

More than ever, it is about the dance, about the land of the threefold cord. About the way Thunder can take me to a place where it’s just him and God and me and the dance, and for an hour I can be in a place where pain can’t find us.

On the schooling front, we’re doing almost all of the Elementary work and some EM too, including our first few tentative flying changes.

my hunks ❤

The other man in my life arrived at a time where happiness was hard to come by, but as the wounds heal I am starting to discover how ridiculously happy I can be just because God made him. It’s quite astonishing how one smile can light up a goodly chunk of the world.

Arwen and I are in an amazing place right now. I could never possibly ask for a better partner, a better comrade through my struggling first years in the competitive arena, and it feels good now to be able to repay her with a gentler attitude in the saddle. We mostly hack these days, schooling seriously mostly before shows. Finally taking the time to just enjoy each other, enjoy the shows, enjoy the fact that God brought us here together. The fire in her belly still fuels mine.

I’m riding Faithy! She is still a pretty ungainly beast, particularly struggling to find a truly balanced canter, but in terms of temperament I couldn’t have asked for better. We are doing walk/trot in the dressage and she doesn’t seem to know how to spook. She likes working and trying to figure things out, and is a forward-thinking lady. I also just find her really comfortable to be around and ride; she’s my type, the size and shape that I grew up with, and reminds me deeply of Nell. It feels like we’ve been friends a lot longer than we really have.

Moos make me happy too, particularly super well behaved ones like Fergie and Sarah. The day after the one month anniversary of my friend’s death – an inexpressibly difficult milestone – was the annual Boer and Brit day with my family and it was just super awesome. God sent that day for a reason; it nursed my soul.

God’s provision has been so great this summer. My parents have graciously allowed a few pastures to be opened for horses, and the grazing is fantastic. The sight of healthy, grazing horses among the green abundance just soothes a horsewoman’s very soul.

I keep feeling this increasing awareness of the time we waste. We don’t have time. We don’t have time for anything but loving God and loving people and looking for heaven. We can’t afford to take the time for granted. We need to follow Him now, make amends now, ask forgiveness now, show our love now.
We only already have now and eternity. And eternity – our own and each other’s – hinges on now. We cannot waste it on hell’s schemes.

We need to follow Him now, wherever He leads. We need to live our lives before it’s too late.

Glory to the King.

Silence in the Storm

I can’t seem to stop grieving.

Every time someone asks, “Did you hear about that girl…?” I feel more hurt and more angry when I have to respond, “I was on the scene. She was my friend.”

But God will work all things for the good of those that love Him. Already He is working this for good.

I have loved and been in love for months, but just always been too hesitant to do anything about it. The night my friend died changed all that. God’s love is my only strength; this man is the place God’s love gave me where I don’t have to be strong all the time.

He is her last gift to me. Because I learned from her well-lived life and her tragic death that life is just too short to be still when God calls you loud and clear.

Blogosphere, meet the darling. He is terribly good at reversing the horsebox. He and Thunder have an adorable bromance. I would say he is the man of my dreams, but he’s far more than that.

He’s the man of my prayers.


Glory to the King.

Riba Training SJ

On Sunday morning we trundled off to Kyalami in convoy: the four-berth and two two-berths, all full except the second two-berth. Because with the business growing like it has, that’s how we roll. God is good!

The seven horses arrived at Riba, a smartly efficient and friendly yard right in the heart of deep Kyalami horse country, safely and having travelled well – even Savanna, who was involved in a boxing accident years ago. We had managed to book some stables and hurriedly tossed the ponies in there before heading up for our first classes.

spot the coach in the background

Sunè and her kid were having their first away show off the lead. She was nappy in the warmup (including jumping out of the side… not entirely sure the kid was not in on this plot) but once they hit the show ring they were both absolutely on their game. As you can see, I was in the arena for both rounds for moral support, but all I did was shout “Slowly!” at intervals. He remembered the tracks perfectly and Sunè was her wonderful little self. They did up to 40cm, which is already good enough for SANESA Level 0. I wouldn’t push him for more if he doesn’t want to so I’m pretty happy with it.

Savanna was next. She’d been amazing to box and handle and showed no separation anxiety, which is already a huge win, so I was optimistic. Once I was on she did get a bit spooky. Nothing violent, but your standard TB move of running backwards and threatening to rear. We handled that and made it into the warm up, where she was looky but fine and completely happy to jump all the jumps – even the oxer.

In the show ring for the 40 it started with some more backwards running and panicking; I talked her over 1 and 2, and 3 had a wavy plank in it and she politely declined. A kind coach came over and led her over that, and then she seemed to settle and plopped around the rest without turning a hair.

In the 50 she had settled very well and trotted around it easily, albeit having a big look at the wavy plank and carelessly taking a pole, but I’ll take it.

It was all just standard baby horse stuff and I’m expecting huge improvement by the next one. The main thing is that she loaded and travelled well, didn’t get separation anxious, handled the new environment, and was willing to try. The rest will come with experience.

Midas and VT’s kid N were in the 50 and 60, as well as Liana and her kid. Both ponies jumped super clear rounds. Liana also had a fat look at the wavy plank but her kid gave her a big kick and they made it. They didn’t place in the 60, but that was because I gave the kid strict instructions to keep it slow and quiet, and she followed them to the letter. This kid was falling off at 50 only a few months ago – I’m intensely impressed.

Midas absolutely jumped out of his socks. He got right to work and never looked at a thing; in the jump-off he took the little turns and stretched out until he was doing horse strides with those little legs. His technique continues to improve and he’s just such a brave, uncomplicated and trustworthy chap – at four years old, and ridden exclusively by kids. Just top class and I really mean it. In the 60 he ended up fifth in a fairly big class, causing problems for N because…


… Vastrap won it. Nothing could stop this little professional and they absolutely nailed it. In the 70 they came third despite poor N having tight costume changes riding two horses with one saddle. She handled it great. The makings of a top rider here, too.

he is the best at waiting in training show queues

Lancey also jumped the 60 and the 70 and he nailed my goal (which didn’t make it to the blog, oops): no stops. In fact, he jumped all his rounds clear. He behaved impeccably all day, except when I tried to cut this turn in the jump-off and we almost jumped this random jump and he mercifully stopped and I almost fell on it and then we got it together and finished the round. Obviously he wasn’t very quick so we didn’t place, but now he’s all ready for Z-kid and I’m happy as a bird.

This wonderful object was his wonderful Jamaican self, garnishing compliments on his spottiness and sweetness. I was so so tired when I got on him for the 70 and didn’t really get it together, so he climbed over the fences and almost stopped at the wavy pole and I just sat there flapping my stick because my legs didn’t want to kick anymore. Poor chap still managed to jump clear, though.

I had a breather (and food) before the 80 and this managed to restore my riding ability back to normal. We tackled this, a speed class, with something resembling speed for the first time ever. I never chased him, but I did ask for his “big” rhythm (the biggest I’m happy with, which admittedly is not very big) and we made tight turns and the horse was just fantastic. I made decisions and actually rode and he just rose to the occasion. There were VERY spooky fillers but he marched over them all. We got sixth too, which was quite nice.

Maybe next time we’ll try a 90. Either way, God is amazing and I love my spotty friend.


Glory to the King.

Just Snippets

Teaching is a high calling, a daunting responsibility, a rewarding rollercoaster, and a breathtaking honour. It does, however, have its downsides. Not least of which is that whatever infection the child population of Heidelberg have, I inevitably end up having, too. At least my sad homeschoolers’ immune system has girded its loins somewhat, but I was something of a snot-nosed grump this week.

It was hard to not be snappish. I believe I failed often. But I tried, and I ask forgiveness.

This poor moo fell in a hole on Sunday. I wasn’t able to get super involved in the rescue effort, which took four hours and involved multiple people and large equipment, but I did administer what is so far the strangest injection of my career – hanging upside down in a hole with my sister holding my ankles to avoid my joining said moo in said hole. This stalward little Jersey cow handled her predicament with aplomb and escaped with minor injuries.

Savanna’s condition continues to improve. Her flatwork is feeling good, too. We had some arguments about the jumping; she will now jump simple verticals and crosses without difficulty, but she has a deep misunderstanding and fear of oxers, combinations, and gymnastic lines. Even the tiniest oxer elicits some running backwards and panicking. We did lots of gently popping over little oxers, even from a walk at first, and in the end she was jumping an oxer in a combination. This is good because she has her first away show this weekend.

Champagne and I have been discussing her continuing phobia of Holstein heifers and making solid progress. We started with hand walking, sticking to one “safe” rein at first, then walking with a quiet older horse leading, and then took it from there step by step. She can now trot large and circles on both reins without a lead and doesn’t freak out or panic, even when we circle at C (next to the terrifying Holsteins). She is fine generally but does jump any time a cow sighs, farts, lies down, stands up, looks at her or (heaven forbid) scratches its ear. The jump is a fairly ordinary sideways spook and I talk her out of it pretty fast, so the progress is enormous. She’s learnt the main thing, which is that fear can be dealt with.

Ash and L have been doing so well in their lessons, including cantering independently without stirrups, that at their last lesson I introduced a tiny little fence. Ash may not jump much because of her tendon but I did want L to have her first tiny jump on a horse she really trusts and Ash fits the bill. I ended up having to make it 60cm before Ash actually consented to jump instead of trotting over, but they both looked fabulous. My new no-stirrups policy is paying off.

We made Lulu’s wonderful African hair into an unamused unicorn. Apart from being tortured by deliriously tired coach and groom, Lulu is doing MUCH better on her new diet and with her adjusted saddle, and is back to sassing the kids with vigour.

We’re entering a very difficult time of year for horses. The temperatures swing wildly from cold at night to hot during the day; their coats are so hot they sweat through the day and then don’t drink enough at night and colic. Tiny bits of green grass, practically void of nutritional value, are also coming through and they walk all over their big fields looking for it and getting thinner. I am having worm counts done like a true paranoid horse mom, but I think it’s the time of year.

How cute are our new bridle hooks? And genius! This is the brainchild of one of the lesson moms. Cute and cheap ftw.

K and Milady are doing great. I would love to be able to use Milady in the school eventually: she has the nature, just needs her go button tuned down a bit. Then she can earn her keep until the next baby starts getting heavy.


Eagle went on his first hack with his mom, and was absolutely impeccable,


as were Savanna (with her teen) and Blizzard (with K). We only went a short way, but they were fine. Blizzard is standing up well to the demands of the bombproof hack, for a four-week-under saddle baby.

This cat had her babies behind the washing machine and had to be rescued from the dogs. Aren’t they adorable? She is super friendly and lets you pet her and the kittens while purring proudly over her blind, squirming brood. Ratters in the making.

Mom found this gem somewhere in an envelope. I must be eight or so? This was the riding school where we eventually bought Lulu, and I looked at one of this mare’s foals and that foal was now 14 so I feel really old.

layout for boots and blankets exam feat. kindness rock

L and a girl I’ve been tutoring online are both writing their exams on Monday. They passed their mocks with flying colours, but they’ll appreciate your prayers. ❤

Everybody had their shots this week, too. They positively queued up for them. I love managing a yard full of quiet gentle ponies. Everything is so much simpler. Dr. C is so good with them, too.

And finally, a Dusty update. She is, thank God (seriously), much better. Still on half turnout and some anti-inflammatories, but no longer hopping on three legs. It appears it is a bad muscle sprain after all; painful to be sure, but manageable. (Also pictured: only just enough hay for a 14hh easy keeping pony on box rest for the night. Two nets a night ain’t ad lib).

This weekend’s program includes a training show, attended by Liana, Vastrap, and Sunè and their kids, Midas and VT’s kid, and three for me. Jamaica (doing his millionth 80cm – we’ll eventually move up, eventually), Lancelot (60cm and 70cm, hopefully his last show with me) and Savanna (40cm and 50cm). I can’t wait ❤

Glory to the King.

Struggling

​I kind of hesitate to write this post because I really am not writing this for sympathy, though I know it may come across that way. But I know scars can only do any good when they’re shown as a symbol of hope and survival, so I write this for everyone who is where I am and was where I have been, anyone for whom it might be a glimmer of hope.

Because I know how alone it feels to be afraid.

It feels so stupid to have riding nerves, doesn’t it? It’s so easy to believe that nobody else feels the way you do. That there’s something wrong with you that other people just don’t have wrong with them. Maybe you’re just not cut out for riding, maybe you just can’t. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal unless it’s your living. Your calling. A part of you. Something you’re on fire for. People my age so often complain that they don’t know what they want to do. Is there any worse agony than to know what you want to do and be unable to do it for a reason as humiliating as fear?

It’s not just nerves. Everyone has nerves. Nerves are the little buzz I feel at shows; an added sharpness that can develop into tension if not managed. No, this is fear, borderline phobic. It’s paralytic. I come down to that fence and I can’t move or think. I freeze and mess up, and that makes it worse, over and over again.

I have screamed why. I have been sobbing on my knees begging to know why God would give me such a burning passion and such a debilitating handicap. Why can’t I be like the other riders I see floating over 1.20, 1.30? I’m willing to bet some of them haven’t ever taught a horse a thing but here I am, the horse trainer – a good one, too – freezing to the base of 70cm jumps. Through me God has fixed horses that you couldn’t touch, trained remedial buckers to dance, breathed the light back into the eyes of the broken. Why won’t He help me jump this fence?

It’s jumping, mostly. Young horses, even hacking are OK. Not as OK as I look; the silent battle remains – but OK enough that I can enjoy it and do it well. But jumping…

Today’s jumping exercise in my lesson with coach K was just a vertical of about 75cm, sharp right turn to a slightly bigger oxer, six strides to another oxer. I put up that kind of stuff in my lessons every day. I buried poor old Al so many times that eventually even he stopped. I was using every single trick I know to calm myself down and it wasn’t working.

Coach K is worth her weight in gold; she figured me out and remains endlessly patient. But from where I’m sitting, jumping 85cm on a horse I don’t know in my exam is looking like a very, very big ask.

I went home feeling exhausted from the battle. There’s just never a respite from it, no riding situation in which that dark clouds lifts completely. It’s so heavy sometimes and I couldn’t understand why.

Until this afternoon when I was helping my own little student with the very, very bad nerves. And I had to argue with him to let me put the lead on when we went for a little hack. And when I took him for his first little trot, he didn’t panic and squeal the way he used to when we just lifted him onto the pony. No. He laughed. He laughed and a smile burst over his little face like a sunrise.

And I could almost hear God saying, This is why.

He could lift this struggle from me. He could make this cup to pass away from me, but He leaves me to drink it because He’s got a plan. I don’t take it lightly when I say that God has made me a good coach for nervous riders. I can help them because I am them. I’ve been there and I know they can’t help it, they can’t just get over it magically. But I can help them get over it. Step by tiny step.

So I’ll drink that cup to the very dregs.

I still hate the struggle. I’m still so tired of it. But I know I have to bear it for a reason, so I pray, Not as I will but as Thou wilt. Tomorrow I’ll shoulder the cross and march on and share the truth about the struggle because it can help someone. There will be haters who’ll think a nervous rider can’t be a good one. They will be wrong. I make a living out of something that terrifies me – that has to stand for something.

And one by one, I’ll watch my riders blossom. And with each one, I’ll continue to hope that someday, that might be me, too.

Glory to the King.

A New Place

I haven’t written much about Magic recently.

he’s so cute
The main reason for that is that the poor chap has just sort of whinnied at me as I flew past this week. It’s hard being the manager’s pet – he always seems to come second when the mango strikes the fan. I’ve groomed him, lunged him once, kissed his nose as I went past and sat on him for like 10 minutes on Tuesday.

No longer able to bear it, tonight after all the lessons were done and silence descended on the yard, I pulled him out of his field at last and we had some Magic time.

also cute here

Our relationship has found its way to a new place. It’s different, and sometimes a little weird, but it’s good. Oh, it’s very, very good.

There’s no pressure. I haven’t ridden without pressure since Skye retired years ago, and I barely remember what it’s like. Letting go of that seriousness, that deadly focus, that constant vigilance for the slightest slip in training or position has been – hard. Like unclenching a death grip. But so liberating. And especially so for my precious Magic.

He’s always loved work, but he’s never been this excited to get to work. He lights up these days. His good days are exuberantly happy. His bad days are so much less bad now that we both know that if he’s not coping today, then it’s just fine. We do what he can do. We don’t ask for more than he has. We play, we enjoy, we seek to rediscover the comfort zone I’d smothered in pressure.

We breathe.

And as God holds Magic up like a mirror to my soul, I learn to do something I’m truly no good at.

Without backsliding, without sinning, to give myself a break. And to see me the way He does.

Wreathed in timeless love.

OK so I couldn’t decide which one was cutest so you get all of them

So as we merrily bound through a gymnastic line and get all the strides wrong, or jump the same 40cm cross one million times, or gallop around above the bit, or hack bareback on a loose rein, or just hand graze – as nothing happens whatsoever in our training, something incredible happens in our souls. It’s that thing that God used to call me to the yard in the first place. That thing He does in the place where the equine heart meets the human soul.

That thing that happens when our jagged, ugly, broken pieces fit into one another, crack for crack, and God makes something beautiful from our very brokenness. That thing, that indescribable thing that only He can do…

I don’t know its name. But the closest thing I can find is “healing”.