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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4 trips; one for the two-berth, three for the four-berth.
Nowhere near enough girths.
No dedicated horse-holders. (We’re very thankful our horsies almost all tie up).
Not one single fall.
One child’s round that I didn’t get to watch. An experienced child, so that was OK.
We arrived at 6:45am, in good time for our 8:00 class. This was a good thing, since while we had enough fitting saddles for Sune, Milady, Liana, and Savanna, it turned out that we did not have enough girths. A frequent problem when most of the riders are on a bit of a shoestring budget and thus borrowing riding school stuff. We decided to just swap saddles between Milady and Savanna and wing it, so off we went; Liana and her kid, Milady and K, Sune and L, and bareback Savanna following me and garnering some odd looks from spectators.
It was Milady’s first show, as well as L’s, and I was worried about them for about five minutes until I could see that they both had everything under control. All four of us were in the first two classes, the 50cm and 60cm, and there was some friendly ribbing. My money was on Liana and her kid; the kid loyally trusted me to win on remedial Savanna, and I think K and L were simply hoping to survive. In the end we all were wrong. Milady jumped a confident, quiet round, well-ridden by K, except both of them sort of weren’t looking at the second element of the combination and had a run-out there. Liana’s kid rode so, so nicely with excellent lines and position, but tapped the pole at number two. Savanna got to number two and then threw a hissy fit, whereupon she got a hiding and finished the track much better than she ever has before, taking a couple of poles. I was very happy with that – it’s the first time she’s actually gotten around without a leader.
Then Sune and L charged around in a perfect clear round, despite L firmly believing she wouldn’t remember her track, and thus handing all of our butts to us. There was more of the same in the 60cm; Milady, Liana and Sune all went clear in the first round, and Savanna had a pole, but I was very happy with her because she was confident, forward and relaxed. In the jump-off Milady and Liana had a pole each, but both their rounds were smooth and confident, so I was happy. Then little Sune and L charged around clear once again, albeit out of the placings because I had given them a Speech about going safely and building confidence.
Then it was off to the working riding and small jumping classes. Trooper and E kicked off the little classes by trotting sweetly around the ground poles, although E kind of forgot that fence 3b was a thing, but it was a good warm-up for their working riding round. Poor little Sune was shunted straight off to be ridden by her kid in the 30cm and 40cm. Regrettably, the track was exactly the same as it was last month, and Sune’s kid is one super-smart little eight-year-old, so it wasn’t very good practice for remembering the track since he remembered it perfectly from last time. Either way, that led to a clear in the 30cm and an unlucky pole down in the 40cm.
Trooper and E absolutely knocked it out of the park in the working riding. Their course was fairly technical and all-inclusive: walking underneath an arch, then through a bendy little lane, halt and pick up a basket and walk around a marked-out circle on the ground before returning the basket, trot the bending cones, trot the trotting poles, walk through another lane, walk over a mat, go to a pillar and ring a bell. Troopy didn’t look at a thing, not even the mat. E didn’t quite kick him hard enough to trot all of the trotting poles, but their bending poles were absolutely perfect. I couldn’t be happier. And I haven’t seen E smile as much as when she’s around Trooper, ever. Mission accomplished; Trooper’s doing what only a horse can do for a teenage girl.
Midas and VT’s kid also did a stunning test, Midas’s first. He did everything so perfectly except for the mat, where he just gently stopped and had a look. I popped in at that point and stepped onto it in front of him, and then he went over very happily and quietly. VT’s kid rode really very well and I was happy with the pony too; at the very least I know he’ll be excellent on a lead rein, and he’s quite good enough to get a solid mark off lead. I think she would have gotten him over it eventually.
Then poor Midas and the kid had to go charging straight off to the showjumping to jump Midas’s first 70cm. It was a speed class and I was calling dressage tests so I wasn’t there to tell the kid to go slowly, so obviously they tore around in a very confident clear round, coming fourth against some truly enormous horses (the whole of Team Nissan seemed to show up that day). So I couldn’t be much happier with that.
Somewhere around this point, Dad returned with the second load of horses, very timeously too, I might add. Ash was one of them, and her kid had plenty of time to trot around the warmup (and almost get killed by some of the aforementioned truly enormous horses – luckily Ash is a sassy little boss mare) before going in for their test. Savanna’s kid was also warming up and Savanna was being impressively calm and relaxed. I dragged them both down together so that I could keep an eye on each one and pushed Savanna and her kid in first.
Both boys were having their first show (apart from our little training show), and they both impressed me greatly. There were a few good moments and a couple of wobblies (Savanna broke in her first centreline and her kid kicked her to trot too early a few times; Ash didn’t really get the memo about having to halt on her last centreline and her kiddo’s legs were a bit flappy) but neither of them got lost or had any huge disasters. Ash and her kid had 64% and Savanna and her kid had 59%, which they both were happy with. Both have lots of work to do before they can ride anything other than a SANESA Riding Proficiency test, but I’m confident that they can go out and enjoy themselves at SANESA Level 0 next year. If they work hard they can get good marks, too.
At this point I was supposed to have been in the working hunter/stadium eventing arena on Jamaica about 45 minutes earlier, and had resigned myself to missing that one, but the judge there kindly let me go anyway. I cantered him around the warmup once (wearing Savanna’s bridle because his bridle was on Ash; I’m very grateful for his unfussy little mouth), popped over a jump, tied a knot in the end of the TREMENDOUSLY long reins, and off we went. The track was only about 60-70cm at the biggest, but fairly challenging, including a couple of banks down, a bank up, steps, a dyke with all three fences in it, a little ditch, a combination, some brush, and a whole lot of straw bales and rustic fences and such. He had a big wobble at the first fence because it was next to a water jump, but once he realised he didn’t have to do the water jump he was quite OK. He had another wobble at the brush the first time, but after jumping it once he jumped it nicely the second time. Somewhere around fence 10 he hit his stride and started to enjoy himself, as did I. I really want to event again.
Then we had a little break before going back to the warmup to climb awkwardly over the oxer and wait our turn in the 90cm competition. At this point, I had reached that mildly delirious stage near the end of a show with lots of kids, and could not really care less what size the jumps were. I just walked the related distances in the class so that I knew the strides and watched somebody go so that I knew where to go, and in we went. After cruising on a bigger stride in the stadium eventing arena, it was quite natural to send Jamaica more forward, adding only one stride in the related distances (which I don’t mind since he is almost a pony jumping on horse strides), and thus the round was very smooth. We landed on the wrong leg a few times and I was slow to correct it, but he still jumped every fence right out of his stride. There were a bunch of puddles in the arena and one of them was right in front of the second element of the combination, so he chipped in a stride looking at that, but the rest of it was fantastic.
It was the only clear round, too. So we got a big fat red ribbon.
When I schooled him for this show and we couldn’t get a good stride to this one jump I literally remember thinking to myself, “Well, God, You got me through my Module 4 and gave me a very confident ride in that exam, so I’m not asking for anything more right now; I can lose my nerve again now,” but God’s reply seemed to be, “I’m not done working miracles yet, My daughter.” The 1.00m didn’t look all that big when we watched it as we were packing up.
Dad, meanwhile, had already shipped Milady, Liana and Trooper back home, and returned within half an hour of the end of my class to take the rest of us. We were all happily home by four in the afternoon, although how Dad did it is between him and God because I sure don’t know.
This year has been all about what God can do. Even at this little training show, He helped us to run it so smoothly despite not having enough tack or horseboxes or horses. Somehow He gave me an excellent ride and helped all the newbies to have a good show and – best of all – all three my rising stars got to ride, having somehow scraped together sponsorships and kindness from various sources to be able to have enough show clothes, entry money, and horses. All three of them. I am so, so happy to be a witness to the majestic spectacle of what God does when you give it all to Him.
So here’s a few more numbers for you to wrap up this post.
This show seemed to be determined to end the SANESA season on a typically chaotic SANESA bang – six classes all in one morning all over vast KEP and I was determined not to miss a second of anything. I almost succeeded, and I’m incredibly glad that I did – because God did something mighty that day!
All the ponies and riders absolutely showed up and brought their A-game that day. Pennie was jumping out of her skin – standing off and overjumping by miles. I have never seen her feeling soooo good in her body and she was showing off. They blasted through their A2 speed with G cheering Pennie on at the top of her lungs, me cheering G on at the top of my lungs, and G’s mom and I almost having a collective heart attack. They won it and with a fat margin, too. No mean feat at Gauteng Finals.
They followed it up by bounding through the huge and technical competition round for 4th place. We’re going to Nationals!
Their equitation was not their best – G didn’t get the chance to plan her test because they were busy winning stuff and I was busy cleaning Zorro so I didn’t even see it, but they still placed 15th. By working hunter they were both absolutely flattened. They tried hard, but Pennie didn’t really have the steam to show a good jump and kept disuniting, so they ended 13th.
I am chuffed. Just a little. This pony shouldn’t even be sound according to what I was seeing eight weeks ago; it was remedially stopping and getting elimination after elimination last year and now look at her. No, look at God – and the things He does! Nothing is impossible. ❤
G also thought (as did we all) that she’d sacrificed her chance to jump at Finals at all when she had to make the choice to leave the last qualifier because Pennie wasn’t quite right. It was a decision I left up to her and she made a mature one, so for this more than anything, I’m proud.
Zorro cleaned up great and headed off to working hunter positively sparkling. I was chewing my nails when I saw the track – both technical and spooky, with some obstacles he’s only seen once or twice at xc schooling. But he and Z-kid plunged forth at the most wonderful hunter pace and proceeded to cruise around majestically, taking every fence in his stride. They had a careless pole, but even so their manners and pace marks were high enough to earn tied 9th and a place on the Gauteng team.
Their jumping track was VERY soft and unimpressive and Zorro was just kind of bored with it and took a naughty pole. Their time was solid and they would have placed but for that, so I am building gymnastic lines as we speak to get the brat to pick his lazy feets up.
This horse was a camel when he arrived and I really didn’t think much of him but God is using him mightily.
It’s not the placings that awed me at this show, although those did feel good. My primary school riders tried just as hard and so did their ponies. It’s that we have really, really struggled with these two horses in the past and they were just in such a happy space this weekend – absolutely knocked it out of the park, and loved it.
Oh, but first I must tell y’all that the kiddies are incredible!! But you knew that, right? We are taking FOUR ponies and their little riders to Gauteng Finals and I am so proud of them I might just explode. 😀 Best of all, my riders that didn’t make it to Finals are just as talented as those that did, so it’s only a matter of time before they get there, too.
So Liana, Vastrap, Zorro and Pennie have all made it and they are all going really very well, particularly Zorro (but don’t tell the other ponies I said that). Their kiddos have put in a lot of work this season and I’m so happy to see them being so richly rewarded. But of course we can’t lose sight of the real Reason why we’re here: they planted, I watered – and our Abba Father gave the increase.
Well, now back to goals. Let’s have a look.
Get points for Elementary Medium. Still chipping away at this! It’ll pick up now, hopefully, that we’re going to more dressage and fewer showing shows. Either way, last quarter we had two points, and now we have five. It is possible to get points one class at a time.
Our Elementary work is slowly improving. The horse is starting to touch the limit of her physical ability (not necessarily her natural talent – but her ability combined with dodgy schooling due to being my first project ever when I was, like, 13) and I don’t think we’ll ever show seriously at EM, but there’s no reason why our Elementary can’t be solid. To be fair, though, the problem is more mine than hers. I flounder at the level. I don’t know what anything is really supposed to look like and I don’t have the opportunity for lots of dressage lessons, so the tests are basically our lessons. I even struggle to remember the longer tests. But it’s all a learning experience; my next Elementary horse will be better and this one is a whole lot of fun. Our next show is CHG Leg 5 in the end of August. We have eight weeks before then, including one week off and one week of test riding right before the show, leaving the remaining six weeks to work on our six lowest marks (shoulder-in left, walk-canter transition, medium-working canter transition, turn on the haunches, 20m circle with break of contact, rein back). One movement each week. It will take an art to keep this from stealing the joy of the dance, but one breath at a time, God is taking over the artist inside me.
Don’t mess up a show riding/show hack class.
Jump a graded 80cm round.
Do some cross-country lessons and/or go drag hunting. I doubt hunting will be on the calendar this year, but we might just make it to xc lessons at President’s Park. Which would be absolutely fabulous (and disgusting preparation for our August show, but whatevs).
Arwen is laying the foundation of my own education. If I ever do go up the grades (and that’s really up to God; my dance with Thunder on Sunday showed me that it’s not the level that matters, but the threefold cord) nobody will remember Arwen – but I will. Because she went first, and she paved the way.
As we start to see 2018 on the horizon, I am also pondering a foray into another discipline with her next year. Part of me just yearns to go event again, but another part can’t justify the expense for a discipline the horse won’t excel in. Probably showing. Maybe it’ll be time to gird up my loins and face my fear of showing judges.
As y’all know by now, I had to make the decision to sell the big guy. He’s with a trainer in Brakpan right now (something I’ve been too raw to write about – the trainer is lovely and I know he’s a lot happier with a job to do, and God sent that miracle for us just like He’s sent everything else in Exavior’s life) and hopefully he’ll met his person soon.
Hack alone and in company. Done! With a child on board (in company), too. He loves his hacks.
Be quiet at shows.
Compete up to 70cm showjumping at training shows. Still winning at 60cm (and kinda bored at the level, too) but I don’t think I should make him haul my heavy behind around 70cm. He pops around it at home with kids, and he has a new little partner to finish bringing him on, so as soon as little partner is ready, we’ll do it.
Compete up to Prelim at training shows.
Compete at the Nooitie shows. We did all the ones that seem to be happening this year, and he came home with some ribbons, too.
Go cross-country schooling. Fingers crossed for this month!
Stand for grooming and farrier.
Lead and tie up.
Box well. Almost almost there – we can box without a bum rope, but with cookies and with some hesitation.
Be good tobath.
Be good to catch.
Show in-hand. Spring Show was cancelled, but we’ll probably send in a video for the E-Show in August because then at least nobody can tell me I have a hairy yak in person, right? She behaves nicely in-hand, trots up and stands square, just needs a polish.
In spring, lunge.
In November/December, do the groundwork and have a rider on, just sitting.
Ah, the joys of the long and dull two-year-old year while your precious, promising creature’s withers slowly catch up to its behind. She is wonderful though. I can’t wait to sit on her.
Hack reliably in company. We haven’t hacked much, with most of the focus on jumping, but he’s never put a foot out of line in walk and trot – I’m quite happy. I still wouldn’t lead a long hack on him… but to be fair, I’ve got hacking nerves, so I wouldn’t lead a long hack on anything very much except Arwen (and Trooper).
School Novice dressage. As evidenced by the appearance of a topline, he’s carrying himself a LOT better. Still not brilliant, but to be fair to him, with his body shape and previous schooling brilliance on the flat is going to be a lot to ask. We have most of the Novice 1 to 4 work down. Trot lengthenings and free walk are still a sticky point. His canter work is lovely.
Jump 90cm graded. Heading that way; we’re doing 80cm at shows and popping over the odd 90cm height/width fence at home. The horse can do it – he just skips along. It’s my nerves that are the problem and that’s just going to be a step-by-step process.
So grateful for the spotty one – he has done so much for me already, and continues to do so much with every session.
Reliably do long hacks alone, in company, and wherever without any drama his kid won’t laugh off. Very, very close to finishing this one – we haven’t been on a super long hack yet, but he’s done 45 minutes or so in w/t/c, even with a novice rider. He’s lovely.
Do a training show or two at Prelim dressage. Done! With 65% and 67.3% in Prelim 3 and 4, too.
Consistently jump graded at 70cm, preferably clear. He’s completing his 70cm rounds, but he still has the odd stop that he likes to throw in, and I just want him to be rid of that habit. I’m not too worried about poles – that’s just greenness in his body. I just want him to hunt down the fences.
Lancey is so close to being handed over to Z-kid for good. He just needs to be a little braver at shows.
Do training showjumping shows, up to about 60cm. He is still struggling to figure out that jumping is a thing, but he’s very sweet about it.
Do training dressage shows, up to Prelim. Schooling Prelim at home all right.
Be as safe as a house on hacks, mostly in company.You could literally be a one-armed two-year-old with ADHD and hack this thing out without being in any danger.
Be as safe as a house on the ground. Just need to box, then we’re good.
Be fully quiet at shows. We haven’t been on an outing yet, but I’m aiming for August.
I’m hoping we’ll be able to afford to do all the competing we’re hoping for – the sale ponies often end up a bit sidelined in favour of the more lucrative training horses. That said, I’ve given him six weeks off anyway. He’s three and a half and has all the basics; I can’t expect a whole lot more from him right now.
Thunny spent the first half of the year competing under K at SANESA, but their season is done now, so it’s time he and I started to get our duckies in a row.
School all the Novice work, ready to compete next year. Our Prelim is solid; the only movements we have a little trouble with are halting (steady and straight but not square), stretchy trot, and lengthenings, all of which are Novice work anyway. He’s played with leg-yields, counter canter and simple changes, but I expect difficulty with lengthenings, so this goal will start with strengthening the basic gaits first.
Jump 70cm courses with confidence. Anybody can see that he’s no showjumper, but he’d make a really fun working hunter once he’s settled at shows. Since I drag Arwen to HOY anyway, I don’t see why he shouldn’t come along and plop around the in-hand, show hunter and working hunter.
Do our pre-flatwork short hacks calmly. These are hit-and-miss at the moment. He’s either perfect, or he sees a terrifying sparrow and bolts. He has a proper Friesian bolt too – no bucking, but practically impossible to stop except by means of a vicious one-rein, which I don’t really want to do to him. I don’t want to get killed either though, so he’ll have to have a few until he learns that whoa means whoa.
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.
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.
His connection was still so dodgy here.
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.
And now for SANESA, starting with adorkable Lancey.
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.
Or anything about being photogenic.
And now I present to you one naughty Appaloosa being buried to a lot of fences…
For this show I don’t have to apologise for lack of media, because Fine Photography was there and stunning photos will follow!
On Friday evening, I only got home at one in the morning. Despite being 20, this was not because I was out doing whatever it is that young people do in an attempt to forget/have fun/get themselves killed. Nope. I was playing tagalong to the real medics, my second ever volunteering shift. Isn’t it amazing how God sends us to do things we’d never ever dream of ourselves doing, and then we find a deep happiness in it? If you had told me a year ago that I’d be having the time of my life bundling people up in Emergency Rescue Blankets (looks like tinfoil) and sticking plasters on fingers, I would never have believed you.
Yet there I was. And there I was on Saturday morning, somewhat bleary-eyed and en route to a busy SANESA Q2. This was the qualifier where snot got real: you need three qualifying rounds (placings in the top eight) to go to Finals and with only four qualifiers, that turns up the heat from the second one onwards.
The ponies and riders, however, stepped up and delivered.
Vastrap and his kiddo blazed through their accumulator class with the adrenaline pumping so high that kiddo clean forgot about fence number eight and blasted right past it. At the dismayed cries from the crowd, she went back and popped over without circling, still managing to finish in the top eight.
They turned and burned in their competition class and placed third in very good company. The little rider is super, but it has to be said that VT is one in a million.
Pennie and G had a fantastic show. They kicked it off by placing fourth in the accumulator. An unlucky pole in the competition landed them just out of the placings, but they came back to win their equitation and working hunter classes. Pennie didn’t stop even once, so apparently my rude bellows of “SMACK THE PONY” from outside the warmup arena were effective (albeit badly received by the general public).
A similar approach with Zorro also started to take effect. Poor Z-kid was nervous in the first class and got lost; a goodly pep-talk and much guts from her later, she handled Zorro’s cheekiness in the second class well, getting him around with eight penalties. By working hunter time he was being a model citizen and popped over everything without looking back, placing second. I am immeasurably proud of this young lady for getting herself up off the floor the way she did.
K was nervous for this show and Thunder reciprocated by being tense and shouty, but she kept it together and he was as honest as the day, plopping around his 60cm equitation class like a good chap for first place. Their dressage unfortunately was unnecessarily tense, possibly because they only arrived at the warm up ten minutes before their ride time and I was running around after the little kids and didn’t get much time to spend with them. Such is the lot of my teenagers, I’m afraid. Still, they had a very respectable 58% and 60%, scores that are already promising and can be hugely improved on.
(Oh, and that handsome chap in the photo? That’s my dad. Hands off.)
Liana was a bit hot on the day but was good to her kid and very obedient. There was a minor miscommunication between the kid and the pony regarding which way to turn after the last fence during the first class, resulting in the kid taking an unscheduled dismount. She had the discretion to do this after the finish flags, though, so they placed seventh anyway. She stuck on during the second class but got a little lost, circling for four penalties and landing just outside the placings.
Her prix caprilli test was superb – very accurate and focused – but they were eliminated for going in with boots. I cannot pretend to blame that mistake on sleep deprivation, and I’ll be kicking myself for it for a long, long time. It’s on me and I feel properly bad about it, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that the kiddo rode awesomely.
Last but not least, little Midas was superb. We were late and missed his first jumping class, so I booted the poor boy into the indoor warmup arena with moments to spare before his second class and he just dealt with it and did his job. He popped around his course without turning a hair and finished second, 0.04 seconds behind the winner.
His dressage felt really steady and he got lots of “willing and obedient” comments, the best ones you get. He scored 62% and 64%, with which I am totally satisfied.
The weekend was a huge success, and all my kiddies learnt, rode well, worked together and have a chance of going to finals as a bonus, so it’s well worth the exhaustion looming over my head right now. Further up and further in: Jesus is taking us closer to Him with every step, tiring or not.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Magic went to his second graded show; I made a whoopsie in the first class and landed feet-first in the oxer. Then I made exactly the same whoopsie in the second class and landed bum-first in the combination. Apparently one shouldn’t drop Magic at the scariest fence on course. Who knew, right?
Poor old Magic was unphased, albeit somewhat confused about why Mom had so suddenly dismounted. After a lesson and a mild scolding from my coach about the fact that perfect horses must be ridden perfectly, we went to a training show in May and jumped two perfectly clear rounds without batting an eyelash.
My confidence suffered only the most minor of knocks. Magic is that one horse that always has me smiling – even in this shot taken in the second class of our disastrous show.
Arwen went to Nooitie Nationals and proceeded to win every class she entered.
The showjumping. The dressage.
The pairs. And then, National Champion in hand.
The only thing she didn’t win was the show riding, which she could have if she hadn’t had a violent head flip in the rein back. Well, we won’t be showing a rein back again… despite getting a 6.5 on the same movement in dressage.
Nell also went to Nationals and raked in her fair share of ribbons. She won her in-hand class,
the pairs, one of her two dressage tests, and the novice show hunter.
Then in May we went to Hollyberry Hall for the third leg of the YHPS and completed with 64%. As usual, we were dead last, but considering that the second-to-last horse had 64.1%, I won’t complain; she’s a pony with a green rider and she’s standing her ground amongst the best. Also, that’s a 4% increase from our last YHPS. I’ll take it!
Exavior was turned out to pasture to await being gelded, whereupon he will be brought back into work and backed. He put on an inch to reach 16.0 hands and became more gorgeous than ever.
The pregnant fairies, Cherry and Milady, continue to glow with pregnancy. Milady was briefly brought back into work when she had a client interested in her and behaved impeccably for a 6yo thoroughbred that had been out of work for half a year, but sadly it was not to be. Or not sadly. I still get a cute baby in October, so maybe we shouldn’t complain too loud.
Bruno went to his first show at Nationals and took everything in his stride. He loaded, travelled, and behaved perfectly. He only did in-hand, during which he was so relaxed that the ring steward had to hit him with a clipboard to make him trot up. Later in the weekend I hacked him around an empty warmup arena and he barely bothered to waggle his giant ears. He also did a few lessons with the smaller kiddies that are just off the lead and trotting on the lunge line. Albeit having slightly erratic steering, he proved to be as safe as a house and his slow steady rhythm was perfect for the tiny tots.
Lancelot had his first ride, a momentous occasion that turned out to be a non-event. He was very stuck with going forward when asked, but followed the Head Groom around with myself on his back without batting an eyelash. I was chagrined; I had expected some craziness from him, but he was as quiet as they come.
Big old Sookie’s tripping improved, so we were able to move on to cantering. Her transitions were truly dreadful (ever tried flailing *and* being crooked *and* almost falling *and* crashing onto the forehand all at once?) but the canter itself is her best quality gait. We also shipped her out to Hollyberry Hall for a schooling session when we took Nell; she loaded great and travelled fairly well (a little anxious but very well behaved). At the Hall I took the precaution of lunging her – she is huge and I still don’t quite trust her not to fall on her nose if she decides to jump or spin – but it wasn’t necessary. She was looky, but sane, controllable, and totally nonviolent despite being in a big and quite spooky indoor. Good Sookie!
Whisper had her photo shoot done and was snapped up in short order. Before she went, we progressed to cantering on the correct lead and then to jumping. We even took her to her first show and did ground poles. The organisation and layout was terrible, so the round didn’t go too well, but despite being severely anxious Whisper didn’t get violent once. That’s a truly safe horse right there.
Finally, Liana jumped her first 70cm under me and came sixth in a massive class. In May, she also jumped her first 80cm with me and took a couple of poles but was brave to every fence.
Then she did another 60 and 70cm at Nationals with her kid, snagging the National Champion Showjumper title without apparent effort.
She rounded off the show by jumping her first working hunter round, where she had a spot of bother at the straw bales but did not appear at all phased by the banks.
Another chaotic month at Morning Star Stables, and all our adventures for the glory of our King.
Whew. What a show! God walked with us every step of the way and with all our highs and lows, we still had an absolute blast.
It kicked off really well with Nell winning Supreme Champion Purebred Nooitgedachter Mare, again. She started out really fresh and bouncy, but by the championship classes she had settled right down and stood up quietly for inspection, which is a first for Nell. Obviously she had to do her obligatory hair flip and sideways canter during the victory lap, though.
Not to be outdone, Liana came second in her very strong in-hand class, being absolutely angelic for her adorable kid.
Arwen was Champion Sport Horse In Hand, but in all fairness this was not very hard, considering she was the only one. She was impeccably behaved and all the judge could go on about was how she looks so much like Nell and whether I was sure that they’re not related. (All judges please note: 1. Yes, I am sure I have the right horse. 2. No, they are not related. 3. Yes, I am sure about that, too. What do you want, a DNA profile?)
Show riding was somewhat less successful. Unfortunately, there were no novice classes, so for show riding the greenies got lumped in with 12-year-old bombproof stallions ridden by old veterans who have been champions many times over. Nell wasn’t bad, for Nell – never naughty and I didn’t have to cling on for dear life at all – but she broke to canter a few times and was definitely not the image of the well-mannered, effortless-to-ride showing horse. Fabulous, yes. Quiet, not so much. Still, the judge said that she has great potential and will get there with more training and exposure; she has everything she needs, she’s just still kind of a baby. Also this random warmblood threw its rider and galloped into our arena while poor Nell was still walking around and trying to brain, from which she never really recovered.
Liana was tense about the whole new experience, but took awesome care of her kid. He got all his leads and diagonals perfectly for a well-deserved third place. She’s not really a show pony, but they both tried their guts out.
Arwen decided to redeem both the purebreds by being the picture of manners, elegance and obedience. She came third too, in a strong class, and was an absolute joy to ride – and I think she looked it.
In the end it was another stunning stallion bred by Arop Stud that was ridden supreme champion, as well as gelding champion in hand, working riding champion, and adults’ Novice dressage champion – in fact, Arop won almost every class it entered with the exception of the children’s and partbreds’ show riding.
Soon afterwards, it was off to go do the working hunter with Arwen. Going off alone turned out to be a stupid idea. Arwen spent her warmup doing handstands and going insane, at which point obviously the Mutterer pitched up and stared aghast as his most experienced rider and pony went broncing around the arena. We still hadn’t quite settled down yet when we came dragoning in to salute the judge, but this turned out to be a good thing as Arwen was much too fired up to think of stopping and jumped a splendid clear round. We both had a blast. We were alone in our class and I stayed on and steered, so we were Partbred Working Hunter champions and got to go through to the Supremes on the Sunday.
Dressage was sturdy and uneventful; Liana and her kid got a little lost, but scraped their brains off the floor, got it together admirably and finished second. Nell was third out of three, but to be fair there must have been easily six years’ age difference between herself and her competitors (we will not mention the age difference between their riders). She obediently and willingly completed all the Novice 4 and 5 movements, including her first walk-canter transitions, 12m circles and leg-yields in competition, so I was totally happy with that. Arwen was again the only partbred to do Novice, so automatically won, scoring a respectable 60 for her first Novice 5.
To my great relief (and, it must be said, surprise) all three the girls had a peaceful night and behaved impeccably in their stables. Okay, so Arwen kicked the door and woke up all the fancy horses and their grooms at 5:30am because she was hungry, but that is still impeccable for Arwen. (Dragons don’t live in stables). We started the morning all fresh and chirpy, with the possible exception of the longsuffering Morning Star Stables Groom, who had been rained on in the night. Nell was a lunatic waiting to go in for pre-judging but managed to put her brain back in her head by the time she went in and stood remarkably still during the incredibly long and boring in-hand class. I like in-hand, but 37 horses? That makes for a lot of standing in the line-up.
Straight afterwards I was onto Arwen for the working hunter supremes, which was a blast. Arwen warmed up raring to go, threatened to kick somebody’s valuable hunter and stormed into the arena with smoke coming out of her nose. I, starstruck and petrified, had to try three times to get the correct lead. That done, we jumped the three smallest fences at 60cm in the boring but functional course I had walked for us. She was extremely looky to the first two fences, so they didn’t look awfully pretty, but she left them standing. The third fence was beautiful – she just flowed over it and galloped her heart out. We trotted up to the judge, saluted, and left the arena before I could hyperventilate. We came nowhere in the placings, fairly obviously, but it was a blast. The only really bad part was standing in the line-up – I had to repeatedly yank on my horse because she was trying to eat the iconic Bob Charter arena.
Nell was next up for the in-hand breed supreme championships. For this she was once again very well-mannered and patient. We didn’t finish in the top 10, but this turned out not to be such a bad thing as being excused early was the only way we made it to our YHPS dressage class on time.
The Young Horse Performance Series is something that newbs do not do, but, being a newb, I didn’t get this memo and entered it in a fit of reckless enthusiasm. When I saw my name lined up alongside the likes of our WEG competitors and South African champions, I figured it was way too late to pull out and I may as well show up. This is exactly what we did. Nell, the smallest horse in the class, one of few South African breds and the only non-warmblood or Friesian of the entire show, had a total meltdown in the warmup arena. To be fair, we both did. We were already tense when we walked in and then Chere Burger rode past (perfectly – she is a joy to watch) and my nerves got the better of me. Poor old Nell and I spooked around and around the warmup until eventually with a deep breath and a prayer I got a hold of myself and my horse and we settled down. She was going beautifully when the announcer called us in (stumbling over the Afrikaans Nooitgedachter names). Some poor kind lady pointed out to be that there was daylight between my horse and my girth, I fixed it, and in we went.
Nell has never felt better. She came down the centre line a little crooked and a little above the bit, but confident, relaxed, and happy. She threw her quarters out to the right a little in the halt and I looked up at the square of sky beyond the judges’ box and saluted my God. And after that none of the big names mattered; what mattered was the horse, and this next movement, and the dance.
That fantastic young horse went out there and did the Nooitgedachter breed proud. Sure, she was a little crooked, and a little stiff, and a little on the forehand, but with her green rider and all she stood up to that excellent company she was in. We finished dead last, but with a respectable 59.6% – 1.4% behind the second-to-last horse. The judge complimented her willingness, obedience, and good nature. She tried her guts out and I was really proud of her.
With that, three very tired Nooitie mares, four equally tired Hydes, a relatively chuffed Mutterer and the exhausted Groom went home. And thanked our God. ❤