Dilemma

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

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

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

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

Glory to the King.

Thunder2

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.

Some Highlights

Y’all know the drill by now: it was madness. Indeed it was. A happy mad jumble of riding, volunteering, lessons and challenges. I’m just going to go down my camera roll and blather. It’s something, right?

Thunder continues to work on the most basic things, most of which he’s already mastered, but with the whole year to do Prelim I aim to do it excellently. If I’d only worked harder on Arwen at Prelim I wouldn’t have to keep filling in holes at Elementary, and I won’t make the same mistake with this chap. And he’s soaking it up like a gigantic amiable sponge. Because it doesn’t hack and I generally don’t jump him, I’d think he’d get so bored he’d fall over. But he likes it; for all his behind-the-leg-ness, he’s got the most amazing work ethic.

We’ve sorted the right and left bend thing and stretched the trot. Now we’re concentrating on the quality of his canter. I’m teaching him to go and carry me powerfully forward with my leg completely off and today he had moments of tremendous power between my leg and hand. The stuff of goosebumps; dancing with my horse and my King.

Simple moments like these with my brave old charger light up my day. So blessed to still have her gracing our fields with full vim and vigour at her age.

The remains of a hapless blanket after the wind blew it into Magic and Xave’s field and the two of them shredded it. Luckily neither of them take blankets off each other, but blankets on the ground are apparently fair game.

Ashy is now at the point in her rehab where she can be ridden. She’s a total joy and now walking for ten minutes a day under L.

Rising star E had her first few lessons on Lisna, who does not disappoint. It took E a while to get used to Lisna’s tremendous stride but now they’re looking more harmonious.

She’s a lovely, big, quality mare and she gives me goosebumps –

– and E the kind of smiles we don’t see from our teens too often. These are the moments when I can taste God’s purpose for us.

Blizzard’s lunging is improving, although his first session on the long lines was less inspiring. He does take the bridle a lot easier than he used to.

My scared little kid has had such a terrible setback for no apparent reason. Such is phobia. We’re back to grooming, and Lady Erin is the only one with feet small enough for kiddo to lift by himself.

This is Savanna, our new TB (and by “our” I mean “a teenager’s”). She is only six but conducts herself like a quiet old hand. Sorry for the ribs, we’re covering them up. I don’t think she’s seen so much hay in her life – she’s apparently glued to the bale. First time I’ve ever seen a horse roll and eat at the same time.

This TB don’t need no more fattening. It’s getting embarrassing. His new psychological happy place is translating into a physical throughness and relaxation I’ve never felt before. It feels great.

Eagle has mostly been hacking and he’s lovely. He can have the odd stop and gawp at things, but never anything dramatic. He and Lancey went out with L and I, and both were totally relaxed. I even canter him around a bit on hacks and I’m not big on cantering outside on babies, but Eagle inspires confidence.

It was cold. Our dogs are spoiled. Photo captured in the split second between Ice sitting up and Ice becoming a blur towards the door.

Savanna was not amused by my offers of balancer; I had to mix it with grass pellets to get her eating. I’d say “gotta love thoroughbreds” only Faith did exactly the same.

My mighty dragon had gone through such a bad patch in terms of bend and connection that I called the chiro because she was so stiff through her neck (around C3). Of course, the day after I made the appointment, she suddenly went fifty times better. There’s still a hint of tightness there so we’ll see what the chiro says.

I sat on Skye for the first time in two or three years, the 40m from the stables to her fields, on a crazy little whim. She nearly launched me to Timbuktu but decided against it at the last moment. There’s such a fire in that horse’s soul.

Trooper has been wonderful. He figured out basic contact and connection so sweetly and is completely reliable on hacks alone and in company. Jumping, sadly, is another story. He’ll go between the uprights, he’ll even try leave the poles up, but he doesn’t really get that he can actually, you know… jump. He’ll figure it out when he’s ready.

I wuv him

Jamaica and I had a very stern discussion about brakes and now his willing attitude has slowly restored my nerve. He’s so good about jumping and listening most of the time, but some of the basics are really still missing. Lots of gymnastics and exercises in this one’s future.

I left Nugget’s halter off this morning. I think I’ll be able to catch her tomorrow… but I couldn’t cope with the rubbing and scruffiness anymore. She followed me afterwards and let me pet her without chewing my arm off or anything, so that’s hopeful.

Every morning I start with Nugget, and the whole time I’m grooming her, Faith marches up and down the fence and nickers to me. I think it’s just for the cookies she gets to stretch with, but it gives me the warm fuzzies either way.

Happy old farts: Skye (somewhere in her mid to late 20s) and Benjamin (rising 21). Both my seniors, both looking amazing. I hope I look like that when I’m their age in horse/donkey years.

look look my legs are long (when pony is 13.1)

Midas is mostly jumping with the kid, and I do the dressage. I’m somewhat giddy on the 68% we got last time and I really hope things pan out in such a way that we can get more of a warmup and score even better in two weeks’ time.

Lady Erin is well on her way to becoming a good citizen. She leads nicely, ties up, is lovely to groom, and stands for the farrier. Next topics: shots and loading.

I’m hoping this kid and Midas might become a permanent partnership. Their personalities and abilities are well suited, but she did have trouble getting him to go forward. Methinks the leg aids are higher up than he’s used to. We’ll keep trying and see how it goes; he’s been very safe.

Tried to get a selfie with a Night Fury and an overgrown puppy.

Failed.

Also tried to get a picture of my three dance partners all lined up from biggest to smallest, but they kept following me and mugging me for treats. Love them anyway, or maybe because.

African sunrises and the love of horses. I am terribly loved.

Glory to the King.

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

To the great disappointment of kids and grownups alike, the SANESA qualifier was postponed due to the arenas being too wet (no comment…). God has a plan with that, but that’s why my updates are everyday today.

Friday was a mad rush to get everything exercised and packed, but it did mean some fun hacking. Sunè impressed me by leading a hack with a kid in a super composed and happy manner,

happy bay ears

and Arwen and working student K babysat Lancelot so well that he had a much better hack this time and didn’t spook at all, though he was obviously tense at first.

good Narwie, worried Lancey

Speaking of K, she did the honours of being the first person who isn’t me to ride Tara. Tara performed admirably, giving K three steady gaits in the big arena without a drop of trouble.

There was much fooling around in lessons, and Thunder got back into the program with beginners and did great. We don’t have as many adults without their own horsies now, so he’s been a bit underworked.

photobomb by Starlight

Today started off on a cool note when I went to pick up head groom T and almost ran over an eland. For those who aren’t familiar with eland, they’re basically giant majestic jump goats. For real – the biggest antelope on the planet, they can clear 2.00m, and have a bascule that no giant goat should be able to have.

blurry majestic goat

Today was Exavior’s lunging day. Teeth being done, he’s back in the bridle and doing fine. The Mutterer rode him twice last week and he did rear and go nuts at first, but improved considerably in the end.

all the bling!

Lancelot was jumping today; just a single 60cm vertical from a canter, over and over and over again. The poor chap just keeps coming in at a dodgy distance. He does understand that his job to arrive at the fence, go over the fence, and then continue without changing speed, which is good. It just isn’t always graceful (and the pole doesn’t always stay up).

SO THAAARSTY

A storm rolled in around lunchtime, which cut short my Magic time (awww) and watered the earth and gave us a much-needed respite from the heat (yaaay).

It cleared in time for me to ride Liana. Ana has been rather cheeky to her kid lately. Nothing nasty, but running out at fences often. She needs a few weeks under me and then she should be shipshape again. Kid ponies very quickly realise that being nice to their kid means that mean old me doesn’t get on them and make them do hard things.

I super enjoyed riding her again. I haven’t sat on her since July and I’d forgotten how much fun she is.

Even in tough and tiring times, there’s so much love at God’s own stableyard. Glory to the King.

The Countdown Begins

I cannot believe how much effort Pre-HOY is being. At this rate HOY itself is going to be more or less impossible, but as we all know, our God is good at impossible.

So I put my nose down and do what I can, and there might be lots to do but it’s very exciting.

First, I must recap on the weekend, when my buddy Erin came over to hang out and teach us how to plait.

so much focus

Which of course had to be followed by the most awesome hack ever with Erin on Lullaby, Rain on Stardust and myself taking my usual perch on trusty Arwen. She had one wicked buck of pure excitement, but apart from that, she was stellar. She even leapt straight into the water while the two schoolies politely declined to go anywhere near it.

eventers ftw

I am deeply grateful to Rain and Erin’s patience because I insisted on plodding basically the whole way. I’m OK hacking alone, but the kid-with-the-broken-arm’s fall has left me with a thing about leading hacks. I think I said “Please don’t fall off” approximately 80 times, and they very kindly obeyed.

Back to today, I just lunged and rode Exavior because there’s basically nothing to work on with his in-hand. His riding is a different matter. On Friday I lunged him good and decided to just ride him cool. Bareback. With one lead clipped to the halter. Tired and confused, he reared, and when he hit the ground I bailed. Sweaty horses are slippery to sit on bareback, y’all. I get off before I fall off.

I did get back on and make him go, but he was remembering it today with his classic mix of rude and insecure. He was awesome in walk and then nappy as soon as I asked for trot. To his credit he never actually got up on his hind legs, and with tact and my magic pink wand (AKA dressage whip) we did get some trot in the end.

Arwen schooled working riding, which is our great hope for HOY. She had one rider-error stop at a fence that was too big to approach at a showing canter (and admittedly too big to be in a working riding course) but apart from that she just handled it. That’s my Narwie.

Lancey schooled over slightly bigger fences and took it in his stride. Not literally. There was much clonking of poles. Tara was good to lunge and good to ride but a bit mediocre for in-hand, although we did ride our first lap around the big arena with exactly zero drama despite my scary working riding obstacles.

Midas and Sunè both gave me hope by being just incredible today, behaving like real grownup horsies down to balanced cantering and good simple changes. Maybe I won’t make a complete fool of us at HOY after all.

To my great relief, Magic was also back in his happy place and plopped through his flatwork with the cheerful air I love so much.

And Faithy progressed to going walkies outside of her field, since we no longer need the bum rope for forward motion. I’m loving this stage of daily figuring out more about her. She’s quite aloof, but really enjoys attention and grooming. She is sensitive and fairly easily spooked but also good at dealing with fear, and already looking to me for help. And curious. Really curious.

MUST STARE

This little kid made my day by being so so brave. He has been terribly nervous since he started riding, but today he wanted to be lunged instead of led for the first time! Times like these I thank God for my own bad nerves – it means I can get in the hole with them and help them out. Lulu, of course, did most of the work. Our schoolies are worth their weight in solid gold.

Onwards and upwards. Glory to the King.

Midgets and Giants

So y’all (okay, Emma) asked for more pictures of my beautiful Africa, specifically the 228ha that I call earthly home. I need no further excuse to fill my posts with pretty nature spam.

I love this place so much. I don’t remember a place before it; in a climate that can go from waving green fields bathed in golden sunlight to the savage majesty of a breaking thunderstorm in minutes, I know the swing of its moods almost subconsciously. Old Skye and I explored every hollow and rock; its beauty has ripened with age, grown up as I did, an unfading splendour that never disappoints. It was here that I first felt the inexplicable, mighty, dynamic, overwhelming presence that in my early writings I called “the magic” and that I finally found a name for years later: God.

This very earth runs in my blood. And like blood, I’ll leave it behind, but for now in my heart it’s the most amazing place in the whole world.

This morning was nippy as we headed out to feed, with a kind of shy, patchy mist as the sun came up.

On a far less poetic note, Lady Erin has entered the bug-ugly but button-cute stage. She still has nice legs and an impression of athletic quality, but it’s like someone took a baby warmblood and dressed it up as a donkey. A mangy donkey. The colour is very odd and don’t ask me about those floofy ears.

hello person hand, I eat you now

Faithy has happily adapted to the more domestic life and is milking it for all it’s worth. She’s perfectly happy to come over and let me do whatever with her, but only if I have a treat. And it has to be the right treat. She’s meant to be on a balancer to help her grow but she prefers the lucerne pellets, and will only deign to eat the balancer if I beg.

She has me all figured out and she knows it. It’s so adorable.

Also, Olive is doing great! She’s still not safe to ride because her neuro thing hasn’t quite recovered yet, in that the feet do not always go where they are meant to go, but she’s not complaining.

 

T was kind enough to get some pictures of Exavior’s session today. He’s been such a good chap lately. I tried to get some more canter on Thursday, but he again only managed one floundering stride. He seems very willing to try and didn’t resist at all; I think balance is a problem and the 15m ring that works so well for the ponies is not ideal for a big giant warmblood.

I don’t even look small on him right now but just you wait until he’s six or seven and as big as a bus

So we’ve made cantering on the lunge a priority. He just needs to build some muscles so he can hold his giant coathanger self up properly. He usually only works for 15-20 minutes at a time, but it’s amazing what you can achieve in 15 minutes if you do it often enough. Far better I think than doing an hour and frazzling a baby brain and body.

I like when the whoa button works

He feels so much less huge and impressive than I expected of him that I thought he was going like a real school pony, but on the pictures he actually looks pretty good. Even in the halter he has the obedience thing pretty down.
I like this picture a lot. I know he looks like a giraffe, but he’s supposed to. We haven’t even approached the whole connection conversation yet. I want him flowing freely forward and straight from behind at the touch of a button first. And here he’s actually doing well; he’s going forward by himself without my hands or legs even touching him, he’s tracking up, he’s even in a level balance. Not doing so bad after all.

Ignore me, I do weird things aboard babies, it’s kept me alive so far.

Then I rode a bunch of the others who were all very solid. Arwen jumped fine. Midas, Jamaica and Sunè schooled well. I petted Nugget’s neck and Faith exhibited some very athletic drama queen spooks upon being introduced to the bum rope when we talked about halter training. 

To finish the post, I must brag about this one amazing kid in the riding school. She’s five and she rides better than I did when I was ten or eleven. Seriously. Look at those adorable little independent hands. She takes exactly zero nonsense from Lullaby and I spend much of our lessons trying to think of a reason not to let her canter yet (apart from the humiliating one, which is that my nerves will not survive). This, kids, is what happens when you show up to all your lessons and try really hard.

I want like ten of them

Glory to the King.

First Aid

*** Disclaimer – this post is not intended to give medical advice nor seek it – merely to discuss! ***

I had my first fall in six months today. It was rather a relief and very minor; the last time I came off was in July, which is ages ago for me, and I knew it was coming. Arwen and I were jumping a course of fences (and she was jumping absolutely fabulously, I may add) when as we cantered around a bend suddenly there was no more Arwen under me. I did the tuck-and-roll move my body learned when I was falling off a lot of buckers as a yard rat; Arwen hit the deck next to me but simply bobbled back to her feet like a little rubber ball and cantered off with her tail in the air like a middle finger. It was nothing, but it did get me thinking again about the perils of the sport and, more importantly, what we can do about it.

None of us really ever want to think about it, but as a riding coach – or as any horseperson – one always has to have the possibility in the back of one’s mind that everything could go sideways in a split second. And with a half-ton flight animal and a child involved, it can go really, really sideways.

Of course most coaches have first aid training. But what about the average ammy just hacking with buddies? I never really gave it much thought, but now that I have had a little training, I would argue that everyone involved with horses should have level one, at least. Horse injuries are terrifying because usually they could be spinal injuries, which is where you can mess things up really fast if you’re well-intentioned but just don’t know what to do.

Just before I had my level one, I had a kid come off at fairly high speed right onto her head. She was, of course, wearing a helmet, but in hindsight I think she must have been mildly concussed. Despite having done extensive research on first aid I promptly proceeded to do almost everything wrong. I bumped her back onto her feet, plonked her back on the horse and finished the lesson because she wasn’t seeing double, she wasn’t disoriented at the time, and her mom encouraged her to. It all turned out OK, but I shudder in retrospect to think of what could have happened, had God not been looking out for her.

In sharp contrast, less than a month after getting level one I witnessed my first proper serious fall. I was leading a hack and the next moment a pony came by me at high speed with flapping stirrups. This fall was a LOT more serious than the first one – we had broken bones to deal with, but this time my training stood me in very good stead. I did all the primary survey steps, held C-spine, called for help, reassured the kid – the only thing I didn’t do was splint the suspected break, mostly cuz I didn’t have any out there in the fields. The kid was turned over to qualified hands and made a full recovery. If I hadn’t had level one – well, I would probably have shunted her back onto her feet just because people look so much less injured when they’re at least sitting up, possibly complicating the fracture in the process. I thank God that we never had any drama like this before the level one.

I find now the hardest thing to do is to decide whether or not your rider needs a medic or ambulance. As we know, most falls are decidedly minor, and it would be wasteful of valuable resources to call out a medic for just a little tumble. But where is the line?

Personally my rule is if they don’t sit or jump up before I get to them, I’ll ask them to hold still, hold C-spine and probably call the medics. Most of the time when one falls the adrenalin rush is such that you’re at least back on your knees before you can really think about it. In my experience most people sit up at once; if they don’t, they could well be hurt somewhere, and then I’d far rather be safe than sorry. That’s not to say somebody that stood up immediately might not be injured – sometimes the rush is such that they could still have hit their heads, so I would probably still at least check them out myself and have a parent take them to a doctor for checking out if I had any doubt at all.

Magic2
that time I faceplanted off a kid pony