With December 28th marking two years after the arrival of our first official liveries (Zorro and Jamaica, who infamously jumped the fence and broke his scapula six hours later), running the yard is becoming much more second nature. In previous years, the day-to-day has been more than enough for me to handle. But as we get more used to routines and programmes, and as my faith in God’s ability to handle it grows, we can start going deeper now.
The yard belongs to God. His plan for it is perfect. It always has, and it always will. Setting goals is not me demanding God to do what I want. It’s just me doing my job to the best of my ability.
Build the eight stables, preferably before winter. God’s grace here again; we couldn’t possibly have built them from scratch, not this year, but we’re clearing out an old shed (barn for you international readers picturing me wedging ponies into a tool shed) and dividing it up into stables. It won’t cost much except time and ingenuity.
Repair the clippers before April. This one is subject to how expensive it’ll be, but if I can clip the client horses, it’ll help.
Build part of the little clubhouse. Not sure yet how we’ll do this, but it needs to be done. It’ll happen if God wills it.
Pass Module 5. Then we’ll have an internationally qualified coach!
Get my licence to tow the horsebox. Hopefully ASAP so that I can quit bumming lifts to lessons.
Hit our financial goal consistently.
Finish the first draft of the novel. God called me so clearly to this one.
Write 10-12 blog posts per month, every month. We made it most of last year, but not always consistently.
Take a WHOLE day off every single week. Firstly, this is God’s explicit commandment. Secondly, I have severely struggled with burnout for two years. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling, it makes me half the person I can be, and I’m only 20. My body will not handle burning out four times a year for the rest of my life. Obviously, sometimes emergencies happen (beast in a pit, anyone?) but I need to focus on this because it IS a sin and I have repented.
There are many other personal things I want to achieve this year, but they’re impossible. That makes them not my job, so I can’t quantify them in goals. I can just be still and watch the Lord fight for me. And watch when He achieves the impossible. It’s His speciality.
Standing at the end of the second year of Morning Star Stables, I look back with inexpressible awe, joy, and wonder at what my God has done. I have never been so tired or so aware of my limitations. I’ve never worked so hard and yet been so aware that it’s not going to be good enough. But this whole year was about God seeing my lack of good enough and saying, “That’s where I work, daughter; just you trust Me and watch this.” And so we saw Him working and He did some amazing, amazing things and poured forth His grace, mercy, love and power right before our eyes.
So before I start on the goal recaps and on looking forward to next year, I want to take a second to look back at some of the things God achieved in the yard this year. These are all only small things. His biggest miracles have been invisible, unfolding in young hearts and souls, continuing to reach out for every person that walks into the yard.
Despite still being on a shoestring, somehow our beautiful sand dressage arena was built. Bits of it tend to wash away in big storms since we’re still figuring out the drainage, but it’s nothing that a wheelbarrow, a spade and some determination can’t fix. This time last year I was still teaching kids and backing horses in a paddock on the side of a hill. None of our dressage kids could possibly have competed this year without it.
On the same note, still on the shoestring, we cut poles in our own woods and put together the most amazing lunging ring ever. Seriously. I love it so much, it’s the perfect size and its slanting poles make my life so much easier when I’m backing babies and giving lunging lessons. Our knees are spared!
I stopped fighting my fears, walked away from them and left them in the Hands of God because no matter how hard I struggled, I always lost, and my bruised and battered soul could take no more. God worked mightily in my heart and sent me Jamaica and Coach K to help, and I jumped my first two 90cm tracks with ease. We’re well on our way to getting Mod 5 next year.
Our group of competing kids grew from three in 2016 to six in 2017 to at least eleven or twelve for the 2018 SANESA team. I used to face shows with four horses with great trepidation. This year we were doing eight or nine horses and we were just fine because God was with us. Next year promises up to fourteen or sixteen!
After fearing and dreading Module 4 all year, particularly the riding, I came down with horrible food poisoning three days before the exam. A trip to hospital later, I staggered off to go sit it, feeling horrible and knowing in my soul God was up to something. I passed every subject, and the riding was by far my highest mark. Morning Star Stables has a qualified coach now.
My training expanded hugely from only doing schooling, to backing only ponies, to accepting almost all backing and most remedial work for good measure. God’s grace wrought in me the confidence to take on Champagne, our most remedial horse to date, and we’ve seen an enormous difference in her.
I started competing my fabulous Thunderbird and he exceeded my every expectation, raking in placings and high scores and prompting lots of encouraging comments from the judges. I have my top horse and he was standing in a field for seven years before I realised it. God had made him an incredible dressage horse before I even knew what dressage really was.
And along with my top horse, God gave me regular lessons with a top dressage coach for the first time in my life. I started the year broke and with zero guidance. I finished it still broke but with two incredible instructors, both excellently suited to what I need in that particular discipline. Both of them read me like a book. Coach K is super, super nice, always knows exactly how far she can push me before I start to panic, and is always ready to go back a few steps without making a big deal out of it. Coach J is much tougher and knows exactly how to make things magically happen, and despite having stables full of amazing fancy horses (as do most of his students), he never, ever makes me feel like we’re inferior just because Thunny is a mongrel from the middle of nowhere.
Our first SANESA season as a yard was awesome, and spectacularly successful. Every single child showed enormous improvement throughout the year and learned important lessons about confidence, faith, and courage. G and Pennie finished off the year by winning at Nationals despite a very challenging season and the odds being stacked against them with injuries.
We ran two pony camps, the second one our biggest yet, and our first shows – jumping in July and dressage in December. Both were a roaring success. Our kids all had the opportunity to compete in something this year if they wanted, and they all gave it everything. I am so, so honoured to be a part of their amazing young lives. ❤
Next year we can only go further up and further in. God is on this journey with us. He is here with us in His little stableyard, working the most tremendous miracles. Most of them are inside our own hearts. His Spirit is here, and everyone who walks in is welcome here. We’ve seen Him do great things in unlikely places. And for me the most wonderful thing about the yard is how He works to make it a safe place for everyone. The kids that don’t fit in, the special needs kids, the ones who for whatever reason need more than just being another kid on a pony – these are the ones that flourish here. This is a place where God touches lives.
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.
The arrival of some beautiful rain has transfigured the face of our landscape from the dormant browns of winter to vibrant life.
And no matter that I’ve been living here since I can remember, it still takes my breath away. So do these, my three dance partners. Faith must be about Arwen’s height already. I expect her to mature about Thunder’s height and probably also quite solid.
The damp earth has helped eliminate the various coughings, sneezings and nose-runnings of all the allergic horses.
Longer days make for those stunning late afternoon rides in the golden light. I teach until at least 5:30 most evenings now.
Lullaby is back on fighting form, her old, happy, bouncy self. She’s even off her joint supplement. She led the way on this hack up the big hill.
Liana and her kid followed. I’m so honoured to be a small part of providing kids with experiences like these.
Jamaica also went hacking with Vastrap and his kid, and behaved impeccably.
The big hill is my favourite place for hacking. It’s interesting, has amazing views, and is good work for the horses too.
Clouds have changed the skyscape, making the world seem bigger. I don’t know why, but the sky is a deeper blue in summer around here.
We now have a sign. Each step forward feels like a miracle, probably because it is one; we depend so entirely on our Jesus, and He never lets us down. This year testifies to that.
Our yard is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
This is the place where my soul can’t sing loud enough to Abba Father. Where the miracle happens. As an aside, the footing held up impressively well in the rain. We’ve been able to jump every day.
For some reason the sky is a lot smaller in town, but it’s still beautiful. My personal space is about 228ha.
That’s more like it.
Sunrises haven’t quite reached the height of splendour yet, but there’s something more subtly majestic in their muted colours.
The jacaranda tree is in bloom.
The long one-sided love story of God and I starts with sunrises. Years and years ago, since I can remember thinking about bigger things, it was the beauty of the world that convinced me that there had to be Something out there. I felt its presence; something dynamic, vibrant, powerful, and very much alive. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t have a name for it, but I found it utterly irresistible. I longed to know it. My longing was inexpressible; I wanted to feel it, to be drawn into it.
And the greatest miracle of them all was discovering that this amazing Thing was not only alive, it was Someone, and He had a Son, and He had given that Son up for me. The power that made the wind and stars, He wants me to talk to Him, to cry out to Him, to love Him. The sunrises stopped being splendid creations of some distant and mysterious magnificence and became something more: an intimate, personal expression of love from the God Who never lets go.
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.
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 ❤
It’s been another long and hard week under these big skies, but so worth it. My training has picked up somewhat with the addition of Savanna and Lisna to my schedule, as well as extra admin over month end, so we worked hard this week – but we’ve managed to get a whole lot done!
Thunny was fantastic this week, working on a bunch of Novice work, including the transitions, lengthenings and a little leg-yield or two. He also almost killed L with his lunging, I’m afraid – big dude still remains rather, um, unenthusiastic about the forward thing.
Magic is so fat I’m going to have to start limiting his teff at some point, although he’ll probably lose much of it when spring rolls around and he walks all over his field after the little bits of green grass. His liberty is going great. We’re still pretty much free lunging, but now I can get him to make his circles bigger and smaller, and come to me every time I ask.
I can easily see how the whole thing would go awry if you came at it trying to treat this dangerous huge animal like a dog, though. I very quickly established to Magic that if I say come it means to a spot just outside my space bubble, then I go to him, he doesn’t get to jump on top of me. This has kept things relaxed even when he wants to fool around and buck and express himself because he’s not close enough to accidentally hurt me, so he can have some fun.
Champagne brought me to my knees – literally. It’s not that we were making no progress, but my heart just breaks for that horse when she gets sucked into that whirlpool of anxiety over the littlest thing. I’ve never known a horse to stay so worried for so long – not even Magic. So she featured prominently in my prayers last week, and I started asking for a little more. First just hand walking around the terrifying dressage arena and then – wonder of wonders – I actually rode her all the way around the track without having any meltdowns! I used an older horse to give us a lead, which definitely helped, but in the end we took the lead. She spooked a couple times but it was a normal “ah scary!” young horse spook, not a meltdown.
Progress is slow with Pagney and I really hope her owners stay patient with me because to them it must look awfully like they’re paying me to do nothing. But we’re having big, life-changing conversations with this horse now, and if I rush now I’ll just break her right back down again. She needs so much to learn that I will never punish her for being afraid or write off her nerves as being unimportant. She just doesn’t know she can deal with things, and slowly she’s getting to a place where I can talk her down off the ledge.
In short, she’s finally beginning to trust me. Well done, special little soul. ❤
Beloved dragonbeastie had a bit of a weird week – our routine was just a bit off somehow. She worked brilliantly well, though. More on that later.
I do find that our usual dressage ride time – about 7am – works far better than any other time for her. It’s very quiet then, and she’s able to focus well. Afternoon rides amid the chaos of lessons and lunging and evening feed don’t go as well and she struggles to get into the right zone, but she does it for me.
Lady Erin had her (hopefully) last session about the box on Monday. She just marched right on in four times in a row without any trouble. She is a bit scared of backing out again after slipping last time, but she’ll do it without any drama. Her citizenship is basically done now; I just want to discuss the idea of having a bath, probably when the weather is nicer.
Lisna has been put on my list for twice a week this month. I have my concerns that she’s a bit big and uneducated for E. The horse does not have a violent bone in her body, but she does tend to get quick in canter and I’m not sure how she’ll do at a show. We’re going to try and take her to one in the end of the month and see how she goes before making any decisions or anything.
Savanna’s first show is next weekend and I’m looking forward to it. She’s a hard-trying horse and going MUCH better now that she understands her job a bit better. Her rhythm is lovely now and we’ve started to talk about connection, too. She does want to duck out the first time she sees a fence, but the tendency is decreasing – especially with her teenager.
Midas’s new child’s attendance was a bit sporadic this week due to circumstances beyond their control, so VT’s kid rode him again. This pony goes soooo well. He’s getting quieter and quieter – more and more suited to a first pony even at his age.
K is riding Milady with the idea of turning her into a schoolie since I have nothing really that’s big enough for adults and teens. She can’t just stand in a field open and in early pregnancy, she’s far too young for that. Her first heat cycle of the season arrived this week and I’m looking at sending her off to meet a very handsome grey Welsh husband on the next one or the one after.
This was Starlight’s last ride with us. She has found a new home at a fancy place in the city with some very nice people, and left on Thursday. The riding school will definitely miss her.
Eagle is just super. He’s actually more chill on hacks than in the arena and just loves going out whenever. He had to give Starlight and Lullaby leads past spooky objects on this particular hack. K rides him mostly now since he’s pretty finished and I am swamped.
Blizzard had his first few steps of canter very uneventfully in the ring, so he graduated to the dressage arena. I’m taking a new approach on schooling him, removing a lot of my usual emphasis on forwardness and rhythm in the early stages. It annoys me; I feel I’m teaching the horse to be ridden badly. But for a farm hack, whose owners’ buddies will probably want to take a spin now and then, it may be a quicker way to get him safe. Eagle is already too forward for them. Anyway, Blizzard didn’t look at a single spooky object, so his future as a hack looks bright.
Little Lullaby really perked up this week. I noticed she lost a bit of weight – not loads; she was about a 7 and now she’s about a 5.5 – and it’s affected her saddle fit. We tweaked that and it definitely helped. I also added a bit of concentrate and increased her joint supplements to see if that helps. It all seems to be paying off; she is more cheeky but also definitely more enthusiastic again. Which is good because Starlight left a gap poor old Lulu will have to fill (with Trooper’s help).
I took little Icey to the old age home for some interaction with the residents, alongside a group of other dog owners coordinated by the local SPCA. Ice is kinda terrified of old people but he’s getting better with each trip, and was actually really well behaved. It was a hugely soul-nourishing experience. God has this way of most feeding us when He sends us to feed others.
Ash is also in heat this week, yay! I’m still a bit up and down with choosing a stallion for her. I found a gorgeous Connemara stallion, but he’s maximum height and she’s just over. I’d also prefer a live cover stallion given her age. So we’re looking at an ex-1.10m jumping Welshie or at the stunning Welsh stallion that was reserve supreme in hand at HOY.
Lancey is so amazing on hacks now – I trust him very well alone, in groups, and in all three gaits. His responsiveness in the arena was not great this week, but he has been jumping with a lot more confidence than before. I’m hoping for his show next week to be his last under me before I hand him over to his kid for good.
Liana and her kid had an easy week jumping and hacking after having their brains fried by prix caprilli last week. They loved it.
This is Billy Bob, a tiny brown Jamaica from Winstead. He is lovely. My lesson this week was less lovely. I was back on board Al and his very long stride took me by surprise a bit; I was really struggling to see distances and ride a rhythm and it made me on edge because I felt like he was jumping out from under me a bit. We got it done, but it has left me with some apprehension for Module 4. I’ll be fine as long as the horse I get is short-striding and a bit lazy. If I get something a bit trigger-happy with big strides it may be a bit of a disaster. That’s up to God though, so He’s got it.
L and an online Module 2 student are writing their exams in a couple of weeks so it’s been Pony Club around here frantically learning stuff. These rules are basically impossible to get into your head and must be known from memory for the exams, so now there’s a poster in the feed room for L to chew over with every feed.
Destiny is probably going home to his mom at the end of the month and he feels pretty ready. He still drives me nuts from time to time, but he’s a solid citizen now and his mom handles him well.
I left the bad news for last because it comes with a serious prayer request. Precious Stardust has injured her gimpy leg on Friday afternoon. She started limping a bit halfway through a lesson; we got off and unsaddled, and when we walked her to the stable she was barely weight-bearing. I really, really hate to see a horse that lame, I really do, it’s seldom good. She’s on box rest and NSAIDs for the weekend, with the hope that it’s a bad muscle sprain that will resolve, but if I’m honest I have no idea what’s going on in there.
She has done so much. She is a cornerstone on which we built this yard and she owes me nothing, but I pray God that she’ll be OK. She’s my most stalwart colleague and most trustworthy helper and I really want to see her sound again. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.
Although our riders have been doing better and better, for a time our growth plateaued a bit. Well, that time’s pretty over.
On Saturday, I led the biggest group hack I’ve taken out at our own yard. They were all wonderful (well, except Starlight) and we rode about three-quarters of the way round the farm without a single mishap.
Liana, Sunè and Vastrap were carrying their kids, Starlight had L, Stardust had a lesson kiddie,
and two outside riders from another local riding school joined us, too.
I was on my most trusted dragon steed, and there’s not a single picture of her. Sorry Arwen. She blew some fire at the neighbouring cows and Liana had to go past and show her it was OK and there was no need to incinerate anyone, but otherwise she plodded on the buckle. As did most of them. It was amazing.
Who’d think after the disastrous crash in the end of last year that I’d ever have the guts to take even a single child out again? I didn’t. Apparently God did.
Then, I headed to a beautiful old farm even deeper into nowhere than we are to have a look at a grey mare that spooks spectacularly. She wasn’t too bad for me, and I’m hoping for a little repeat business there, but it remains to be seen.
And on Sunday morning a nice lady and her little girl from Deep Kyalami came to see if they could bring their gorgeous, well-bred, spooky young pony to us for schooling. On the videos it moves like Nell did, so I’m kind of excited for that one.
On Thursday we’re also going to pick up a new arrival, a kid’s TB mare.
And I have bookings for lessons from two brand-new clients.
I also got a more long-term contract helping to edit a novel draft that I’m totally in love with.
I keep going to God willing to do anything, and He keeps giving me awesome things to do. Sometimes I’m not sure why,
but then I watch my horses play, and I remember how I am loved.
I’ve wanted this for so long, and it is so worth waiting for. Today, I got to ride on a flat level surface that wasn’t pounding my poor horses’ joints into oblivion. There were no holes. There was no slipping. There weren’t any other horses in the way! Just 20x60m of amazing. Thanks Dad, Mutterer – and Lord!
I was so excited I didn’t even want to use the lunging ring, so I lunged Xave in the dressage arena instead. He was completely wild but happily went around in circles (at light speed). New arena is apparently spooky if you are a baby dumb-blood (I didn’t even come up with that – it’s what the dentists calls them, usually just after Xave tries to jump on his head). Apart from one very rude kick at me as I sent him off, he was actually fairly polite about being worried. Also, he is freakishly gorgeous, did you notice?
I warmed Arwie up in it before jumping and she didn’t spook at all, although she was excited and pulling. Possibly also a by-product of getting last week off. She proceeded to jump a full 85cm course with flair, which felt amazing. We’re getting somewhere!
Lancelot also schooled in it and was impressively calm, and Midas was just as good and practiced both his tests for Saturday really well. It’s only Prelim 1 and 2 but it was wonderful to be able to school the movements exactly as they’ll be in the show arena. He was brilliant. He’ll do really well if he shuts up and concentrates.
Much of the day was taken up in last-minute practices for the kiddies who are showing heifers on Wednesday. In case anyone out there didn’t know, cows are amazingly beautiful. Particularly Jerseys.
Sunè schooled beautifully in the new arena too. She’s still annoyingly one-sided, which irks me mostly because I’m not used to it. It’s one of the first things I try to fix on mine. Bombproof as they come, though. I look forward to her working riding class this weekend.
I also turned Magic out in the new arena in an attempt to let him get used to it without any chance of launching me into the stratosphere. This was a terrible idea. He bolted up and down screaming until I came over and petted him, and then he walked around on a lead as quietly as can be, not spooking at anything. I guess we’ll see how tomorrow goes.
It was a joy to teach in the dressage; the ponies appreciated the easier footing, the riders appreciated the space, and I appreciated being close to the house (and water/food/equipment/loo). My voice, though, is totally cooked. It was fit for shouting across a 15x35m oval, not for this.
After the chaos, just before sunset when the light was turning to molten gold and peace filled every breath, I went out to lunge Eagle (who was great) and breathe in the beauty. The reality. The truth of how much we all are loved.
I deserve death. Instead, I get blessings. Life. The ultimate sacrifice from the One I betrayed.
I pray that every time I step onto that big sand rectangle, it reminds me of that.
After a very damp and slow time last week, we were all raring to get back into action this week. The weather played along absolutely beautifully with a whole series of calm, sunny, balmy days and bone dry footing making for some serious riding.
My jump exercise of the week was a little grid, mostly because I fear and despise grids and therefore should do several of them to get myself over it and convince myself of their usefulness. It was a simple one, but quite daunting for pole-phobic yours truly: 3 trotting poles to a small cross, one stride to a vertical, one stride to another vertical.
Magic was the highlight of my week, which he’s pretty good at being. Still working on getting him forward off the leg, I was also able to get a couple of consist trot leg-yields from him, riding him in the snaffle. He’s no Valegro, but I was thrilled when he gave me the Novice 5 leg-yields beautifully (10m circle at L, then leg-yield back to the track around R). I was nervous to take him through my little grid because I thought he might make a mistake and then we’d flail and panic through it, but what do you know – he was perfect. I did have to make the one strides a little longer as I’d set them for ponies, but even when it was too short, he just took the short distances and popped in an out like a good grownup horse. I have video evidence.
Arwen was the one who actually introduced me to the grid. She was good up until I put up the first vertical, at which she had a dishonest and unreasonable stop, so I gave her a good one along the backside with my crop. These stops are becoming a naughty habit of hers. Thereafter she didn’t try it again and jumped with a more Arwen-like gusto, popping through the whole thing with great enthusiasm and even some straightness. She was so good that it stopped being scary and even became really, really fun at one point, something Arwen is excellent at doing for me. She also put in two solid flatwork sessions, giving me her best haunches in along the track so far. Her canter was a little weak on Friday, though. She also packed some students around on outrides, which she enjoyed greatly as they don’t seem to be able to stop her from eating anything that happens to grow at nose level.
Nellie had a relaxed but good week. She has been struggling with bend and suppleness lately, so we had an intensive lesson with the Mutterer on Wednesday working on that. We did a whole lot of Parelli flexions, finding her a lot stiffer to the right than the left (as expected). She still tends to fall against my right leg quite a bit but working on getting that better. As a side note, when she got stuffy and frustrated with lateral work and flexions, I was ordered to take her for a gallop around the jumping arena. This worked like a charm. It really got her thinking forward and relaxed again. I’ll definitely be using that trick in the future. I led a couple of outrides on her as well and she was super – relaxed, confident, just a little looky.
Exavior was a bit of a dweeb. Temporarily abandoning the lunging idea – the lunge ring is inconveniently situated in a paddock full of usually very calm schoolies; I doubt they would remain so calm should an angry young colt pull free and run into them – we started working on loading. The first couple of days were dreadful. Day one he was spooky and nervous; day two he realised how sympathetic I can be when he is nervous, so he pushed his luck and became downright rude and stubborn. On the third day, both sick of arguing, we finally both pulled together. I exercised more patience, which eventually persuaded him to exercise some brainpower, and he climbed into the box without further ado. We loaded him three or four times with the butt rope and he became calmer each time.
This was Sookie’s first full week of work, having had an easy week to settle in (I spent a whole session just scrubbing her so that her white could be properly white again), and she adjusted very well. She is getting a pile of maize-containing broodmare feed at the moment; I only had to lunge her once before I decided to change her over onto something without maize in it because normally ploddy Sookie was doing handstands and trying to squash my little dog. The next day she was much better and I walked her around the ring; and on the third day I climbed right up and rode her around the ring in three gaits. Her canter right was very awkward, and she felt like bucking, but I booted her through it and put it down to poor balance and lack of muscle tone. She was very willing, supple, and responsive, though – all hugely in her favour. Then we walked and trotted around the spooky big arena and she impressed me by not doing any of the dramatic spooks she used to when she was a baby.
Bruno also had a massive successful week. He just goes from strength to strength. After having some time off for the kick to his ribs, he was hardly hyper at all and the first time I rode him I was already asking for canter both ways. He has an irritating habit of drifting towards the inside of the ring, especially on the left rein, but doesn’t get violent about it. Just general baby pony stuff. Our last session was the best of all. I didn’t lunge him, just hopped on and did 3 gaits in the ring, then had a walk around the unfenced big arena. He was super. I love him more each time I sit on him. A confidence giver since the day he was backed – some lucky kid is going to have a blast on him.
As Lancelot’s sacroiliac injury was less tender, towards the end of the week I also brought him in and gave him a little lunging. He moves quite sound, but I didn’t put any weight on his back just in case. He was very well behaved and not at all as hyper as he usually is, but a little clumsy. I am very wary to be working him much until the chiro sorts out his back, so we’ll stick to light lunging and basic groundwork – loading and bathing – until that’s been done.
Our new arrival also had her first work week. Whisper is a little cremello mare that is here to be schooled and resold. I backed her in the spring for her owner and had put in some basics – walk and trot, a few steps of canter – before she was turned away for a few months. She is a very happy-go-lucky sort that is not much bothered by anything really, and I was back on her in short order doing everything we’d done before barring the canter. She finds the ring rather too small to balance at a canter with her rider on, so we’ll try that out in the big arena next week. On the ground she’s incredibly easy and relaxed to handle, which is a good thing, because dabbing sunscreen around pink cremello eyes is made considerably easier by a cooperative horse.
Thunder and Stardust had a very busy and good week being loved to bits by their kids. Dusty went on her first proper long group outride and was a perfect little angel, not putting a toenail wrong. Dusty is rather good at being a perfect little angel. Baby Thunder remains occasionally careless over fences, but still his straight, solid self.
Another blessed week with my beloved King Jesus at His own stableyard. How great Thou art! ❤ With this being Easter Weekend, we are more thankful than ever for what He did for us. We will never forget Your sacrifice. How could we when what You have done sets us free every single day? When Your courage and love changed our lives forever? Thank You Lord ❤
The yard is bursting at the seams and yet a little empty right now; we have 20 horses in residence but only 10 in training, down from the usual 14. One of my training horses came up with a chronic back injury; another did one too many handstands with me, causing me to call in the big guns, and he is now waiting on his lift back to the Mutterer to be sorted out; and two more were sold within a week of arriving.
This turned out to be a good thing, because it was bucketing down almost every afternoon and the whole of Wednesday. Usually I tend to have this attitude
but not today, kids. It was cold and nobody needs to be sick, so it was just a slow week for everyone.
We still managed to make some progress. Magic had Monday off and then came back into work strongly, working hard on being more responsive off my leg and developing a forward, powerful showjumping canter, like the one we won with on Sunday (whoop!). When I got him he was extremely hypersensitive to my leg and somewhere along the line I have made him too dull to my leg, so now it’s back to getting more responsiveness. He finished the week on an incredibly high note, jumping an 80-85cm course that looked scary to me right up until he jumped the first fence. After that it was euphoria. I got him really deep to the second element of a bending line landing downhill, and he just put up his little knees and popped over it like no big deal. He was making 4 strides in every one of the lines (which walked for 5), so we even got our big canter going again. I was grinning all over my face every time I got off him this week. I know I say this a lot, but that is one special horse.
After his month off, I brought Exavior in and lunged him, which started fine but disintegrated into a minor disaster. He always used to live in the paddock right next to the lunging ring, so bringing him in and lunging him was a doddle; but now that I moved him out we need to pass a whole crew of mares and geldings he doesn’t know and it brought out his colt face. He was very good on the way there, though. Lunging-wise he was hyper and inattentive but extremely obedient, and on the way back he was a jerk. He managed to pull away from me (gloves, stupid!), charged through the gate and tried to jump on the nearest gelding, which gave him a well-deserved kick. Colts. I have two of them and they both need to be de-colted ASAP.
Little Bruno has been coming along beautifully. After coming off a youngster I was backing last summer, my confidence with the babies took a massive hit. I had started probably 10 young horses last year and was getting a little workaday and didn’t read this one properly, so when I climbed on him he bucked vehemently until I ate dirt. It was quite a painful one too, resulting in a satisfyingly large purple bruise, but the memory of it remained every time I had to face up to a youngster. One of the Arop Nooities, a ploddy mare deep into her teens who could not have been surprised by anything, helped me part of the way through it by graciously letting me on board, but I was yet to start a youngster again. So 10 weeks of groundwork it was until I could no longer stand it and climbed onto my cute little pony who didn’t turn a hair. Seriously guys – that Nooitie temperament is just unbeatable. Bruno learned to canter this week, giving me 4 strides and a smooth transition without any drama. He is a little fussy with his mouth but not too bad. On Friday he felt kind of weird, like he was thinking about throwing in a buck, but later that evening he came in for dinner with a lump the size of a rugby ball right on his girth area so that would explain it. The new girl on the block must have been unimpressed by his romantic endeavours. The swelling is down markedly today so I think it’s just a big, ouchy bruise.
Lancelot is my other training project, a lanky dapple-grey Arab gelding who’s just gone three. Lance is a bit of a puzzle, which I’m still figuring out, but it helps to think of him as a kind of short baby Magic. He is super sweet and a total cuddle bunny right up until something scares him, when he loses his brains and goes ballistic. Heaven forbid I scare him because then the wheels fall off. We are beginning to understand one another, and his groundwork is more or less done, so on Tuesday I had a sit on him and had him back up a few steps and he didn’t do a thing. Unfortunately on Friday he came up with a suspected sacroiliac injury; not lame or stiff, but he has a very painful and sensitive area between his two hip bones. The chiro will be out to check that out ASAP.
Thunder and Stardust had a chilled week with most of their lessons raining out, but both were their usual incredibly well-behaved selves. I school them both once a week to keep them sharp and they went beautifully. Thunny jumped a course of quite tall crosses with his usual ploddy, workmanlike reliability – he will go between the uprights every single time, although sometimes the poles won’t quite stay up. Stardust used to refuse to canter right but gave me two laps of the arena solid this week. Sadly she also came up lame on Friday (seriously horses what have you been doing?!) but should be better after having the weekend off.
Last but by no means least, Sookie arrived this week. I’ve been riding Sookie on and off for her owner for a while – probably four and a half or five years by now – and now she’s come for some more intensive training. I’ll admit to be excited to add another one to “my” competitive string. She settled in quite well, once the other horses had accepted her, and now looms happily over the group of native ponies wherever they go. Comically, 16hh imported German warmblood Sookie has made friends with 14hh veld pony Stardust. She has been bred the past two years and had two fine big foals, so she needs some weight and retraining, but I doubt it’ll be long before the big girl hits the show ring. She was virtually show ready last time I sat on her so we just have to dust things off a bit.
Nell and Arwen rounded off the week with a successful graded dressage show on Sunday. I made the mistake of giving Arwen a goodly handful of her energy supplement that morning, which was idiotic to say the least. She wasn’t spooky or naughty, but she took one look at the dressage arena and said CROSS COUNTRYYYYY. When I explained that there were no fences and thus it could not be cross country, she demanded if that was a challenge and proceeded to demonstrate exactly how a fat Nooitgedachter mare can do cross country without any jumps required. Still, she finished on 59% for Novice 3 and 60% for Novice 2, with comments of “obedient”, “willing” (I don’t think this horse has ever finished a test without a “willing” comment) and a diplomatic “needs more suppling over the neck and back”, which I can only assume is dressage code for “pulls rider’s arms off”.
Nell warmed up beautifully but became separation anxious once we actually went in, so Novice 2 was horrible; we spooked dramatically, broke, shied, had a little buck, squealed a few times and fell in a heap at X for 52%. By Novice 3 she had settled enormously and had an obedient test for the comment “lovely” and “steady”, which she was, barring one nasty moment when the Friesian next door spooked and she spooked at it spooking. She still felt a little mediocre, for Nell, and didn’t have any wow moments, but got 59% which I won’t sniff at. I was proud of how quickly she settled down; her separation anxiety is a problem but every time we go out it improves a little, so someday we’ll be rid of it for good.