HOY Day 1 and 2

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

pinto plaits kinda funky

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

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

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

post-class selfie feat. fantastic browband

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

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

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

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

K plaits Midas

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

insert wolf whistle here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thy will be done. Glory to the King.

April/May Recap

So April and May happened.

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The Head Groom and Arwen, Bruno and I

There’s a lot to recap, so we’ll keep it short.

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The matchy ladies winning their pairs class

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.

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This horse ❤

Arwen went to Nooitie Nationals and proceeded to win every class she entered.

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Showjumping at Fourways earlier in April (which she also won)

The showjumping. The dressage.

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Novice 5 like a boss

The pairs. And then, National Champion in hand.

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The Head Groom was handling

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.

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Silly beautiful mare

Nell also went to Nationals and raked in her fair share of ribbons. She won her in-hand class,

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Cuz judges like pretty floating ponies

the pairs, one of her two dressage tests, and the novice show hunter.

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With grass in her mouth, because that’s so showing-appropriate, y’know?

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!

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Good Nellie

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.

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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.

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Cherry (the Mutterer’s mare and evidence of his impeccable taste)
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Milady

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.

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Good girl Whispy

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.

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Pony got scope to burn

Then she did another 60 and 70cm at Nationals with her kid, snagging the National Champion Showjumper title without apparent effort.

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Such concentration!

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.

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BANK WHEEEEE

Another chaotic month at Morning Star Stables, and all our adventures for the glory of our King.

 

Horse of the Year 2016

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.

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Because nobody else trots like this
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She was my champion long before ❤

Not to be outdone, Liana came second in her very strong in-hand class, being absolutely angelic for her adorable kid.

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The kid remembered everything I told him about handling, too
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She’s kind of in love with her 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?)

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Pretending to not be a dragon

 

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.

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Still gorgeous

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.

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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.

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Rawr
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Cuz jumping in the middle is for… uh… hunters…
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Who cares about bushes or gates? Not dragon ponies
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Good Narwie

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.

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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.

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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. ❤

Jacaranda Nooitgedachter Spring Show

Show photos by Fine Photography (purchased)

This show really brought home to me the fact that Nooitgedachters, and in particular Arop Stud’s Nooitgedachters, are some of the most amazing horses in the world. Well, I always knew that, but I believe that about basically every horse I ride at some point, it’s just that this show meant my opinion is not as biased as usual.

First, we loaded two stallions and a mare in the same horsebox. One of the stallions is three years old. The other one had to stand directly next to the mare, with only the partition between them. The mare kicked the side of the box and spooked them, and then we all went off to Pretoria and they didn’t do a thing. I’d like to see that done with some of the warmbloods I’ve seen.

They all settled in nicely at the showgrounds, and then beautiful Nell went out and strutted her stuff and won every in-hand class she walked into – culminating with Grand Champion Purebred Mare.

AropNia-Nell2 We also did dressage, although after showing in the stallions’ championship class, we had exactly eight minutes to saddle up and warm up. As a result Nell’s baby brain was still all over the place, so we drifted down the centerline, spooked at C and bucked twice. Spooks throughout and all, she had some truly super moments and impressed the judge with her talent. We were third in Prelim, scoring 53.6%. Once she has shown a bit more often and figured out that dressage letters do not eat horses, I think she’ll pull out some awesome scores.AropNia-Nell1

Raldu (long known to readers as the Storm Horse Junior) kept his feet on the ground and his brain in his head despite being a three-year-old colt at his first time off the farm, resulting in Junior Champion Stallion.

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And Ryka, the Storm Horse himself, was Reserve Champion Stallion. The Mutterer handled him and I believe if I splash pictures of the Mutterer all over the Internet he might make me do another two-hour lesson of mounting without a girth, so here are some gratuitous photos of Ryka at home ferrying his little human around and being majestic.

AropRyka8 AropRyka3It was an honour to show these phenomenal horses for Arop Nooitgedachters and, above all, for my wonderful, beloved, magnificent Lord Jesus. Glory to the amazing King.

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For the previously unenlightened international readers: These horses are Nooitgedachters. The Nooitgedachter is a breed of small horse native to South Africa. It is a fairly new breed, originating in the 1950s from Basutho, Arabian and Boerperd stock. The Basutho pony is the main ancestor; a small, unbelievably hardy pony from the mountains of Lesotho. These ponies were agile and had enormous endurance, and were crossed with Arabs and Boerperds to add size, better movement, and better looks. The result is today’s Nooitgedachter, a well-moving, good-looking and undeniably tough little horse renowned for its outstanding temperament and trainability. It stands between 13.2 and 16.1 hands high and excels in showing, endurance, and lower level eventing, but is best known as a superb all-rounder.