Monday, 14 October 2019

Best Decisions

I've not been feeling well for just about a month, so I haven't been riding as much as I normally do and even activities like mucking out and bucket cleaning have been more of a struggle than they should be. I have a doctor's appt next week to start getting sorted out so hopefully I'll be back to full energy soon.

Anyway, this isn't a health blog, but the above is relevant to today's thoughts. Some (well meaning) people have mentioned perhaps I might want to consider scaling back the horse commitments to make things easier on myself. Bridget is a great pony and she's in her prime. I often don't ride her more than 2 or 3 times a week and usually it's just a quick trail ride. Why not find her a home where she'll be loved and used?

Obviously, they don't understand that Bridget stays busy working off her board ;)

Conversely, life has changed since I got Sophie. Do I really need/want a dressage prospect pony that I likely will only be able to show or take to clinics once every few months?

I actually did ponder selling Bridget back when I was looking for a dressage pony to take me further. The money from Bridget would have made a big difference and I could have found a prospect already under saddle and ready to step right into Bridget's shoes. But, I didn't and I am happy.

It's like owning a giant cuddly toy. Except she's real :D

Bridget is super easy to have around. She enjoys getting out and doing stuff, but she also doesn't mind hanging out. She lives on air, she's friendly and easy to handle for everyone. Yes, she still costs me a couple hundred dollars a month to keep, but that's basically nothing when we're talking horses! Bridget might not do anything spectacularly (besides eat) but she reliably does everything well, and that's huge for a backyard rider like me who doesn't currently belong to a "program"

Who else would I drag out because someone set a course and I suddenly feel like jumping after months of trails and dressage?

Even if we take the emotion out of it (I've owned her since she was a super green bean and I am so attached to her, obviously) I really do think she's got a great life. I doubt she cares about ribbons and shows and I know she doesn't like being in a full schedule of work. She prefers living out to in, and for how much I go on about how easy she is, she's kind of a fan of just having one or two main people in her life. I have visions of Bridget living a long a happy life and retiring with me and living in my backyard :)

She's getting fuzzy!

As for Sophie, this backyard pony stuff has been good for her too. I bought her as an ammy friendly dressage prospect, and as such she's a lot more quick and reactive than B (although strangely, less sensitive and more forgiving). She's turned into a pretty solid citizen these past few months, and I think she is going to be a great all arounder too. So yeah, not just a dressage prospect anymore!

Happy, friendly backyard pony #2

I think Sophie's always going to be that bit more work to care for and will need a regular schedule to be at her best, but with Bridget being so low maintenance and flexible with her work schedule I can't see that keeping both of them happy will ever be overwhelming.

Things could easily change again and I'll be back at EC's and taking lessons and showing regularly. Or maybe I'll just be trailering down more infrequently. Whatever the future brings, I've got zero regrets with keeping Bridget and taking a chance and buying Sophie.

Thank goodness I didn't sell Bridget and buy that dressage horse! There's not a big demand for fancy prancing in my current living situation...and while fancy is fun, right now I need the level headed ponies that can hack down the road in the dark all winter, go a couple of days turned out in the field with very little attention, and who don't mind hitting the trails with friends one day and going to a clinic the next. I'm not saying there aren't dressage horses like that out there...I just think I'm lucky with what I've got. I've got sport pony potential without actually needing to use it every day :)


Saturday, 12 October 2019

Growing Some More

 I feel like every time I start thinking Sophie is perfect, but smaller than I need, the universe steps in and gives me a break.

<3 her

When she arrived as a 2 year old, she measured 13.2hh, not the 14hh stated on all the paperwork. Being used to draft crosses, warmbloods, and OTTBs who look almost ready to ride at that age, I got a lot of questions about my new weanling/yearling :)

So cute. Just turned 2 here.

Earlier this summer, as a just over 3 year old, she measured pretty much bang on 14hh and was looking a little more like a horse.

Right around 3 years old here.

Science assured me she *should* get 14.2-3hh, but of course, I was feeling like I mjght not be so lucky. At least no matter what, she will fill out as she matures.

Last week, I noticed she was looking like she'd lost a little weight, and even wrote a post about what a fussy eater she is.

Yesterday, I took some pictures and noticed she looks a little bum high in all of them. Hmmm, actually, maybe she is growing?

Could just be the angle?



Out came the measuring stick. Sure enough, she's about 14.1 1/2 right now. Yay!

Further encouragement came as I adjusted her saddle this morning. I have an adjustable gullet one right now to get us through. It's not perfect, and was seeming less so. I had been using a medium width, but a quick check showed she'd be happier in a wide! It seems so counterintuitive given how narrow she seems, but there is a round pony barrel behind some big shoulders. Of course we still have long legs that look like they're coming from the same place, but it's encouraging to me that structurally, there's a frame there to grow into.

I think she's always going to be pretty leggy and feminine looking and that's totally fine - I didn't buy a cob! It seems like such minor, incremental changes, but at some point in the last couple of months I went from feeling like she's quite tiny, to feeling like heightwise she's just about perfect.

Yesterday, I was grooming Bridget and caught myself thinking she seemed smaller. I think that's because Sophie is now 2 inches taller than her!

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

10 Questions For October

Thanks again, LWilliams, for 10 more questions!

1. What discipline do you ride? What would you ride if you could pick any other one?

I'd like to move up the levels in dressage, but I miss eventing. I bought Sophie for dressage but I can see myself maybe doing some local jumper shows with her too. I'm not sure I like the idea of eventing beyond entry level, so dressage and potentially jumpers are where I'd like to progress further. 
If you took my english tack away, I rode a friend's reined cowhorse once and it was pretty cool. I might try that.
We dressage real good ;)

2. How many horses have you ridden in your entire riding career?

Lots? I don't know. I'm guessing'd think I'd be a better rider by now! :)

Added one more just last month! (Will I ever stop sharing this picture? Probably not, lol)

3. Most bizarre activity you’ve done with your/a horse?

When we were kids we used to dare each other to do the stupidest things...everything from galloping across the golf course and swimming in the pond to practicing weird ways to get on (I seem to remember attempting to slide off the roof onto our ponies like in a western movie. Poor ponies!) Seeing how many of us could fit on one horse. Jumping from one to another while galloping. Rigging up some questionable 'sleighs' in the snow. Bringing them into the house to watch TV, playing hide and seek or tag on them. More recently, when I take Bridget or Sophie on hikes or jogs with me people seem to think that's weird.

We got a lot of inspiration from old westerns like this. We were really dumb kids.

4. Do you consider riding to be your outlet? If yes, why?

Definitely one of them. I've alluded to the fact that I didn't have a happy home life, so most of the time I was at the barn instead, and that's one of the big things that helped me through. These days, life is great, but it's still always better with horses!

5. Have you ever read horse-related magazines? If yes, which one(s)?

When I was a kid, I was all about the magazines! People used to leave them at the barn and our favorites were of course the Horse Illustrated ones with the center poster we could put on the wall. As an adult, I used to have subscriptions to EQUUS and Practial Horseman. Right now I still get one actual magazine delivered to my door because I like getting snail mail :) It's Horse Sport, a Canadian magazine and my current favorite.

6. Most memorable advice given to you?

Just do it. You won't mess it up so badly we can't fix it.
My coach said something along those lines and being a person who really worries about doing what's best for my horse and hates making a mistake, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

7. Did you ever collect Breyer horse models or similar?

I had a few as an older teen, I think. I mostly remember having a heap of Lego that a neighbour gave me and being obsessed and spending hours building stables and horses out of that for years after most kids might have grown out of it.

I had this one because I thought Abdullah was pretty cool.

8. Favorite “celebrity” horse?

I was a total bookworm as a kid, and with so many good kids book centered around racing, I think there was a rotating list of favorites depending on what book I was reading. We must have had an old library because most were racing in the 1920's to 60's and to this day I often know random trivia about long gone racehorses :).  As an adult, I always have a few favorite dressage and eventing horses, but none I really follow too closely.

9. If you could spend a day learning from any horse person (past or present), who would you choose?

Carl Hester. 

10. If you could ride in any international arena in the world, where would you choose?

Kid me was obsessed with watching show jumping on CBC so I would have said Spruce Meadows. Maybe I'd stick with that just for that kid. 
If we could stretch our definition of arena a lot, I'd REALLY love to hack around Badminton.


Sunday, 6 October 2019

Good Girls

I had the kind of week I hope I can continue through the winter. The days are going to get shorter and the weather more challenging, but it's my hope I can keep things ticking over and keep those baby steps coming.

Sunsets are earlier and earlier.

To be honest I've already achieved any goals I had for Sophie this fall. I don't want to seriously have her under saddle until next spring. So, this week we just went for a couple of walks around the neighbourhood, and had a couple of quick sessions in the round pen at the club grounds too. I finished up one day by leading her over part of the really old XC course on site...I think there was a Pony Club here 20+ years ago and nothing has been used since. Still, there are little bits of things left and still hidden in the surrounding forest. She happily trotted and jumped the little logs in hand and navigated a couple of small banks so I guess you could say we're eventers now ;)

Tried this saddle on her and it's a fits through the shoulder but too wide elsewhere. One day the saddle gods will smile on me.

She's getting the idea of lateral flexions and moving her hindquarters and shoulders under saddle. Whoa is pretty solid, go can be a little sticky and wiggly and start/stop as she's just a little unsure still. I'm only on her 5 or 10 minutes at a time and it's all walking. That's plenty for her right now and it's still enough for me to find a good moment or two and make tiny steps of progress.

Bridget also had a good weekend, doing what she does best and showing a nervous horse the ropes of being an ammy friendly trail horse. I am so lucky with her....Murphy's law being what it is you know our outing wouldn't be straightforward. We had to go past a man cutting firewood with a chainsaw on the side of the road and B quite happily marched right on through, even with the other horse jumping around and  bouncing off of her.

I finally pulled her mane too...I could handle this look anymore, so look forward to a more polished Bridget in future posts. Sidenote: It's kind of weird that she's a pony and this is the longest mane and forelock she grows. 

We had a nice flatwork school as well, and she was on fire - light and responsive and so, so, supple and free through her back. She often feels great after a little time off doing other things. She knows her job and gets tense and resentful if she is bored or thinks I am drilling things.

I'm getting an itch to do a little jumping again so some poles and little grids might be a fun thing to add back to the mix to start with. To be honest, as much as I love Bridget it's a little hard to keep motivated without any goals for her. It turns out I am not a trail rider at heart because I'm getting pretty bored with ours. I think it's time to mix it up a bit again.
Bonus moody ocean picture. I took a few and got home and realized there are humpback whales in the center of the frame while I was all focused on panoramic misty mountain tops. Oops.


Thursday, 3 October 2019

That Time of Year

The fields are holding up really well, given that we had twice our normal amount of rain last month. Still, more often than not, the horses have been relegated to their winter paddocks already.

That means I am back on the struggle bus of owning the one pony in existance who is a fussy eater and not an air fern. Without her preferred dietary choice of pasture grazing available it's a bit of a challenge finding things the pony will eat in enough quantity to keep up with her still growing body. Even yummy things like expensive timothy and alfalfa hay get picked over and wasted, and she's not a fan of most grains or treats.
She'd tell you she's a perfectly innocent of such crimes, tho

Even the grain she does eat often gets dumped and wasted because playing with the bucket is much more fun and interesting!

Here's what Princess Sophie will eat:

- Second cut local hay (some)
- timothy hay (some)
- alfalfa hay (some)
- ration balancer pellets (some)
- camelina oil

Sometimes will eat:

- Complete pelleted grain
- Nature Valley honey and oats granola bars

Tried repeatedly and will not eat:

- Apples/Apple flavored anything
- carrots
- every manufactured horse treat I've tried
- orchard grass hay
- first cut local hay
- beet pulp
- every manufactured grain I've tried besides her ration balancer ones (sidenote: I've tried to mix in identical textured grain with more calories but she's got radar for that and has got all the time in the world apparently to pick through individual pellets)
- anything in her paddock/field that is not perfect grass.

Thank goodness I also own the easiest pony in the world who doubles as an equine garbage disposal...Bridget happily eats any of Sophie's left overs and has been getting a little plump with all my failed attempts.

As for Sophie, I've been hanging hay nets in places she likes to hang out and leaving an extra bucket of soaked alfalfa cubes out while I'm mucking out. She's lost some weight in the past month, but she's still looking good so far. Fingers crossed!

Anyone else have a busy horse that isn't all that food motivated? Have any strategies to share?

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Some Inspiration and Goal Defining

In another life, I think I should have made horses my job, or at least picked a more lucrative career that allowed me a lot of barn time.

I just had 10 days off work and I think at least half of each of those days were spent at the barn or out with the horses, and as the days passed, the further down the rabbit hole I went! I like to consider myself good at my job and my career is well suited to my strengths. I have a ton of hobbies and interests too. But horses are the only thing where I'm completely myself and where time gets lost!

Taking photos of my horses...also a time trap I'm enjoying.

Despite having a million other things I should have been doing,  I ended up spending pretty much all of Saturday and Sunday auditing a clinic and taking pictures for friends. I really enjoyed it and was wishing I'd known I'd be free further in advance so I could have booked a lesson for myself.

I like auditing clinics and lessons because along with the obvious riding and training tips you pick up, watching others and paying attention to the clinician's overall program and outlook gives a lot of inspiration for myself. I've been getting a little hung up on waiting for outside things (building a barn, buying a trailer, new saddles and saddle fitting, plus most importantly, saving the money for it all so as to not be debt stressed!)

This horse was SO cool.

I feel like I've got so much on my plate right now, and not in a good way. Kind of a 'what fire do I put out first?' way. I know what my big goals are, it's the getting there and prioritizing and setting the smaller progress markers that seem to be where I lose clarity....the bigger stuff seems so far away at this point.

In the absence of lessons and having my awesome coach EC at my disposal on the regular, spending time looking outside my own little world and the limitations I set on myself is so, so helpful in regaining inspiration and focus. I saw a lot of people working towards a lot of goals and overcoming a lot of different challenges to do so.

How cute is this guy? He loves this barrel :)  Seriously, I was having so much fun taking pictures for people despite feeling a little weird initially because I am obviously not a pro!

I've been reminded this weekend that there is never a perfect time to do the thing. The best time is usually right now!

We've got some fun stuff on the agenda for October, including the return of the Spooky Trail Course and some group trail rides. I'm pretty guilty of just doing my own thing, so October should be a nice change with a slightly bigger emphasis on more social outings and events.

Are you ready for some adventures, Sophie?

My hope is to get Sophie ready for some lessons and small shows and clinics next year. It's so far away but I'm eyeing up the dressage series in my coach's town - it would be a good opportunity to do a couple of overnight trips and ride some baby dressage tests in a relaxed environment with lots of support and help built in!

In the meantime in between time though, it's going to be all about keeping those tiny progress markers coming. Every walk on the trail and local event attended is a great experience for her. As we were reminded this weekend, every day brings an opportunity to take a step towards your goals.


Friday, 27 September 2019

Not Riding Scenes From The Barn

Aka: My Other Vacation Photos

It's been such a nice week off! I've loved having a break from commuting so far, and it's been wonderful to be able to see the horses and spend time at the barn each day. You already know I got a lot of riding and some big goals checked off this week, but it's fun to share the day to day stuff too. Here's how I spent my vacation:

Early morning pony feedings. I need the Jaws theme here.

How cute is  this one?

Or this one?

And of course this one:

I did some hiking and gardening:

It rained. A lot.

Both ponies got out for multiple hikes with us though, too

Bridget got some glamour shots:

Not pictured: the epic rainfall I was standing in, lol
Sophie spent time refreshing groundwork:

I gained a new friend:

This raven shares Bridget's meals with her and follows me around and waits for me to bring the horses grain.
And, of course you already know there have been some pretty epic smiles and happy moments:

We've got a few more fun things planned for the weekend, and the weather is supposed to be spectacular. I can't wait!


Tuesday, 24 September 2019

More (Unexpected) Firsts

Baby horses are just so fun. Some days it feels like everything we do is some big first or big goal accomplished.

My husband was free to act as spotter today, so Sophie got tacked up once again and I thought we'd take ourselves down the road to the club grounds and do some longeing and groundwork. The stretch goal there was to maybe hop on in the round pen and walk around solo for a lap or two. Steering and whoa/go from the saddle are very sluggish and murky and there a few more distractions there so that seemed a reasonable stretch. 

Sadly, we got there and there were a number of trucks and trailers and activity and the round pen was in use. To be quite honest, I had every faith in Sophie being fine but I wasn't all that keen on an audience or distraction for myself and opted out of going. I was pretty disappointed.

G, being awesome, was like "Dont worry about it. Let's just go for a hike on the trail. You can get on if you want to, or not. It'll be more fun for all of us to get out for a walk, and trail miles for Sophie are always a win." 

Walking trails in a XC vest and tall boots isn't something I'd recommend, tho

This guy, he maybe missed a calling as a riding coach/horse trainer, lol. Or he's just pro level at talking me off the ledge ;)

Long story shorter, we walked up towards the gravel pit, about a 45 minute loop back to the barn. And...apparently the trucks were working late. Guess whose horse is fine with dump trucks and engine brakes? Mine :) What a good girl! 

Since she was so happy and chill, I hopped on while G continued to walk beside us (with a lead rope attached just in case!) Sophie was a star. She didn't even blink at carrying me along and the lead ended up just being a security blanket - my steering and whoa/go were adequate enough. G set us free for a little bit before I hopped off and gave her all the hugs and treats.

Pics again to prove it happened and everyone was happy ;)

Honestly, I probably only sat on her for 10 or 15 minutes total, before getting off and walking the rest of the way home. I'm a big believer in keeping it easy and fun (and ending while it still seems too good to be true!) I kind of feel like in some ways this was a pretty huge step from sitting on her earlier in the week in a stall and taking a few steps in the round pen a couple of days ago - she's a VERY good girl.

In other ways, well, I have been quite diligent about getting her out on the trail. She's confident and comfortable there, so I guess why not hop on? 

Anyway, first kind of sort of trail ride is in the books and was perfectly uneventful. First dump trucks drove past us. First awkward mountings from sketchy stumps and rocks - (probably the most important win and skill for a pony with a very short owner, lol) And she was absolutely fantastic for it all. I think she just loves getting out and doing stuff with us.

We'll keep playing for a couple more weeks, then Sophie is going to get time off to grow up a bit more.


Saturday, 21 September 2019

Pics Or It Didn't Happen!

We had "ride" 3 (or 4?) today.

We graduated to being led for a few steps of drunken sailor walk today since Sophie seemed a little more chill with the idea of me being up there. (It's not that she's done anything scary previously, but I wasn't getting the feeling she was ready to head out for a walk, either!)

Honestly, of all the horses I've had this was the one I was pretty sure I'd send away to be backed. She's very sensitive and very smart, not to mention quick and athletic and more than a little spicy.

But, bit by bit, we're getting things done and I'm still having fun and am inside my comfort zone. I'm not feeling like I need to send her away just yet, but of course the option is always there.

If I'm being completely open and real here part of the reason this has been quite a slow process is that I'm very conscious of my weight right now and have been waiting until I was making decent progress with that and pony was looking more mature (because despite me crossing my fingers and remeasuring her every few weeks, she seems determined to stay at a smidge over 14hh, quite a bit smaller than expected!)

After thoroughly reviewing all the most unflattering pictures (poor G was asked to please take pictures for this blog but also please not let go of the lead, plus he's 6'4" and towers over us both. The photo angles are...challenging, lol) Anyway,  I'm SO relieved that I don't look too big on her! I know the 20% rule says I'm fine, but I'm not cool with pushing that number on a youngster. Height wise, I think we look decent, so fingers crossed I can make further progress with my weight this winter.


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

September 10 Questions Blog Hop

I'm here at work and the rain is still coming down. At this point we have had well over a month's worth in the last 4 days. In very exciting news, the weather is supposed to be a little more moderate next week and I HAVE NEXT WEEK OFF! I'm hoping to get a lot of baby pony training goals checked off next week and attend a weekend clinic too. I'm beyond excited.

Thanks once again to LWilliams for providing interesting blog hop topics!

1. Favorite quirk your horse (or a horse you’ve spent time with) has?

Bridget is so funny to me because she's like a grumpy old man in a young mare's body. NOTHING is fun, everything sucks...until you convince her to do the thing and suddenly she's having fun and surprisingly agile :)
Sophie is a typical quirky mare-y mare and very dramatic. My favorite thing about her is how overwhelmingly friendly she's kind of flattering how excited she is to see me and go on adventures with me.

Telling me off the other morning for disturbing her nap with the camera noise. A serious offense in Bridget world.

2. Three words that perfectly describe your horse?

Bridget: Tired (of everyone's BS), Hungry, Loyal

Sophie: Happy, Friendly, Interested

I'm not sure I have any pictures with her ears anything but forward.

3. Plan your next ride. What will you do/work on?

Bridget: Forward off the leg (always), and being adjustable in the gaits without sucking back or leaning (always). 

Sophie: Simply sitting on her and walking around. On the ground, long lining and getting her confident moving out without someone leading.

Look at how happy and hardworkingsleeping she is. Add that to the quirks actually, 50% I have this, 50% of the time she thinks she's the most athletic pony and the ruler of the world and super busy, quick,  pushy, and bossy :)
Showing us her 'piaffe' on a day where she thought she was all that

4. Have you ever trained an OTTB? If yes, what was the biggest challenge?

Many years ago. She was just lovely and very easy and hard working, but I was pretty inexperienced and needed to become a lot more sensitive to what my body was doing. I got the ride because she was just little and I was a small, brave, teen. I always regret not being able to buy her myself when the time came for her to go to a new home. We won't count lessons on assorted OTTBs over the years, because fresh off the track or no, being in a lesson the trainer/coach is really the one with the training plan!

5. Have you ever groomed or worked for a professional rider?

I groomed and worked for my coach for the years I was there - I think everyone did! An easy way to trade for lessons and keep board prices manageable. She's an upper level dressage rider these days which is nice - the few times I groomed at events it was a lot more work!

Remember when I wanted to be an eventer and Bridget and I used to go to eventing camp?

Aww, her little clip job then was so cute. /diversion...back to the blog hop:)

6. Favorite horse and rider combination?

Beyond the usual riding idols (Ingrid Klimke of course!), honestly I get the most joy and inspiration watching local people I know ride and train. It's much more relatable as far as my goals go and of course it's really fun to cheer on your friends!

7. Have you ever ridden a horse at the beach?

On vacation basically every time we go, provided the horses are well cared for. I ride often at our local lakes, but they don't have sand to run along. I've gone to our local beaches a couple of times but this is rocky coastline and there is maybe only a km of rideable footing at low tide at the bigger have to plan well in advance!

Typical coastline here
I'll never get tired of this picture of Sophie at the lake :)

8. If you could experience the equestrian community (i.e. ride and compete) in another country, what country would you choose and why?

Some of my friends and old barn mates have had exciting adventures, and if I could cheat I'd choose all of them! (We were talking South Africa and the Netherlands the other day and wow both sound amazing) I think for simplicity's sake I'd choose England because the dressage and eventing culture is really strong and I speak the language. Plus I have friends already living and riding there.

Also I think they might be open to Welsh Cobs doing dressage? I have visions of a whole stable full of Bridgets, how fantastic would that be? (Not sure the universe could handle that amount of ponytude in one place tho)

9. In your opinion, what is an item of tack that is given unnecessary hype?

So much of it! I feel like there is always some trendy bridle/bit/saddle/pad/blanket/boot/stirrup that is a million dollars and miracle working. Then 6 months later there's a cheap knock off everyone else buys, then 6 months after that no one talks about it anymore.
This saddle pad is magical, yet marked down to $20 right now. Surely magic can't be purchased for that cheap? ;) Review here if you're interested.

10. What was the first horse you rode called? Are they still alive?

I got a job at a trail riding stable as a kid and was in pony heaven with so many to ride and learn on! I'm pretty sure the last of those ponies passed away a few years ago now. I just visited that farm this past weekend and everything looks so run down and made me feel really sad (and old!)